Pleasant Landscapes Newsletter - Summer 2008
Summer Turf Problems
In this publication, we will be discussing summer turf problems that may become more apparent to you over the hot summer months. One of the most aggressive, late summer pests is the chinch bug. As a seasoned lawn care professional, I can usually tell if a lawn has chinch bug without even getting out of my car. You start seeing these distinctive yellow patches that appear next to the sidewalk or pavement first. That's because these are the areas that retain the most heat, thus drawing in the warm climate loving chinch bug. They eventually began to canvas the entire yard often destroying an entire lawn over a period of a few months. We find they are more prevalent in St. Augustine turf, but we have seen them in Bermuda, Centipede, and Zoysia.
Chinch bugs seem to like well watered and well-maintained lawns first. You can't really blame them if you've got a nice juicy blade of grass verses a tough dry piece of wheat to suck on, which one would you pick? Chinch bugs are a sucking insect and therefore they are removing the water from the plant. At first, a home owner would think his sprinkler system is broken or not hitting along the roadside/pavement area. Their first instinct is to pull out a hose and try to add more water to these areas as it looks like the grass is drying out, but really the culprit is the chinch bug.
If you believe that you have chinch bugs or other pest such as mole crickets, web worms, grub, etc., then there is a simple test you can perform. First, start with a clean five gallon bucket that holds water. Next, with a shovel, take a sample of yours turf that is approximately 12" x12" wide or 1 square foot to a dept of four inches, and place the sample into the bucket. I usually like to pick a spot that is 6" green grass and 6" brownish/yellow grass. Put that grass directly into the bucket so that no insects can escape from this process. Next, fill the bucket half way with water and add 2 -3 tablespoon of dishwashing soap, then fill the remaining 1/2 of bucket with more water. This process will separate all the insects from your sample. Give it five to ten minutes for the bugs to float up.
Realize that not all insects are bad insects. The insect of this topic is the chinch bug. It will be a black flea-looking insect with a white stripe down the center of its back. It is approximately 3.5 mm long and 0.75 mm wide in size. Please be aware also that if this test proves negative for insects there are certainly other problems that will cause grass to turn yellow or die. Yellow grass does not necessarily indicate chinch bugs. Now that we have sampled your turf we have a better idea of what may be going on with the insect world. If you have any doubts of what an insect is please feel free to contact us at Pleasant Landscapes or email us a picture. Another great resource is the Clemson Extension Agency which has various branches throughout the Charleston area. They have master gardeners on staff that can help with bug identification.
If you have identified that you are a victim of chinch bug or other turf-destroying pest then my first recommendation would be to hire a professional, but for those do-it-yourselfers we in the landscape industry are not buying any products that are not available to homeowners as well. We may buy them in bulk, but the same treatments available to us are also available to you.
A few garden centers that tend to go out of their way to help homeowners are: Cross-Seed in West Ashley, Ace Royal Hardware on Coleman Blvd, Mt. Pleasant, Abide-Awhile in Mt. Pleasant & Possums in the North area. These are people that can help provide you with products and equipment to help eradicate your turf insect problem(s). I would also like to open the forum for future questions and problems that you are having in your lawn, garden, swimming pool and outdoor living spaces. Being a maintainer of outdoor residential and resort properties I have most likely experienced your problem in some form. You may recommend topics for future discussions to us at: www.pleasantlandscapes.com.