What Are Chinch Bugs?
The chinch bug is a pest that is mostly found in a pasture and turf grass grown in most parts of the world, especially in the United States. The bug belongs to the family of Blissidae under the order of Hemiptera. The bugs are known because they cause extensive damage year in, year out yet they are very small in size over just 6 mm in length. The damages are not only caused by the bugs but in the control measures used against them. There is always a need to replace all the damaged grass, which is quite an expensive task. Lately, most of the research that is being done on these bugs focuses on better and effective ways of controlling them economically.
The history of the bug dates a while back since the first reports of its infestation was in the year 1783 in the Orange County of North Carolina in the US. From that time, the genus has managed to spread over to southern and Western parts of the US as well as other regions. The cinch bugs vary with the southern ones taking a kin liking to a specific type of grass known as St. Augustine. The bugs are known to survive in damp summer conditions when it is warm. The peak always occurs in July. However, reports also show that the bugs also overwinter in the very harsh conditions of North Florida but remain very dormant and inactive during this period. They take shelter at the base and the roots of the grass. Even during winter, they make a point of not leaving their hosts and pick up on the damages once spring arrives.
Distribution and Movement
The injuries that these bugs cause are known to occur all over the Southern States. In Florida, the severe damage is spotted mostly in the southern and central counties. A single population of these bugs normally remains within the same area all through the year. Do chinch bugs fly? If so, why do they walk? Even though the bugs retain their ability to flight, only a very few of that proportion take advantage of their wings in a bid to disperse. Mostly, the most that the bugs do is move from one lawn to another within a single neighborhood. Their movement is mostly done by walking and usually occurs when they need to find food. The bugs are very fast given their size; they manage to cover over 400 feet within just an hour of walking.
Identification and Life Cycle
The chinch bugs life cycle is similar to most of the other insects. In a single lifetime, an adult female clinch bug manages to deposit over 250 eggs. Sometimes, the adult female is slow and only manages to lay a mere four eggs daily but still will be able to oviposit for several continuous weeks. The female clinch bugs always choose to deposit her eggs on the grass just near the place the plant contacts the soil. The eggs hatch within 6 to 13 days during summer with an incubation period of 11 days on average. The process, however, can last up to a month if it is winter season. The eggs turn into chinch bug larvae before turning into nymphs.
To recognize them, you first need to ask yourself, what do chinch bug bites look like? The eggs that the adult female lays are oval in shape and very small. They have blunt ends that come with four projections that extend outside.
The eggs go through a dramatic change in color before they finally hatch. They are first, a pale color, they later turn to amber before turning to red. The nymphs resemble the adults that are wingless but are a bit smaller. The first color is yellow for the nymphal instar, which will later change to red with a band that is pale white on the abdomen area before finally turning to black but retaining the band. All the color changes occur as the cinch bug progresses through its five nymphal instars.
Chinch bug identification is very easy. The adult chinch bug is 6 millimeters in length with a black body. The wings, however, are white but have sports on their margins that are also black. The bugs come in two classifications with the first type being long-winged. The wings extend far down to almost the end of its abdomen. The second one has short wings that extend to half the length of the abdomen. The lifespan of a fully-formed adult clinch bug ranges anywhere from 10 to 70 days. In controlled conditions, the bugs only live 49 days.
Most people are often confused and wonder, are chinch bugs and bed bugs the same? Sometimes bed bugs are referred to as chinch in the South but they are insects from another family hence are not similar. You can tell it better if you explore numerous chinch bugs pictures.
What Damages Do They Cause?
You can always tell a clinch bug infested lawns since it has circular patches that are discolored. The injuries mostly occur first in the water-stressed areas. This would be where there is a pipe or a where the sprinkler focuses on and also the areas where the grass is exposed to full sunlight most of the times. Grass that is planted on a dry, high, shell, or sandy soil is susceptible to more cinch bug damage.
The infestation is never evenly distributed but rather scattered. The distribution often occurs vertically from the turf thatch all the way down into the organic layer (the upper part) soil. The depth is usually about 38 mm below the surface. In places where the infestation is a higher population, it is possible to see the bugs run over the blades of the grass. Nevertheless, the main feeding habit is always centered on the area of the grass between the organic soil level and the turf thatch.
The extent of damage on the lawn is always dependent on the unreserved feeding habit of these bugs. Large numbers of the bugs, both the nymphs and the adults always gather at the base of one grass. The chinch bug bites the grass, draining the sap it as they feed until the plant completely withers changing color from green to a brown-yellow before finally dying. The feeding group moves to the next adjacent plant after killing one section of the grass stolons. This is how their process of destruction spreads.
The economic loss is outrageous. Millions of dollars go into combating the bugs annually in Florida alone. The money mostly goes into the removal of weeds that grow amidst the dead grass, the application of insecticides, and clearing out the area. After that, replanting healthy grass is done once the bug population moves out of the area.
What Causes Chinch Bugs?
A lawn that is under stressful environmental conditions always ends up being more susceptible to these bugs. The same applies to grass that suffers from improper care. Most pests prefer plants that are weakened that are struggling and also lack vigor. Research has shown that a substance called glutathione that is emitted by
stresses plants serves as an attractive factor to pests and even has benefits for the insects such as growth, reproduction, and possible resistance to pesticides. Some of the causes on stress in turfgrass are using dull blades, mowing too short or improperly, using pesticides that are harmful and kill of chinch bug natural predators, poor soil, excessive rain, and old age.
A thatch build-up also directly causes chinch bug infestation. Thatch is often a layer of plants, dead roots, and other debris that accumulate in the soil amongst the grass. Compacted soil normally fosters thatch. This kind of soil blocks of normal decomposition and in the long run cuts off the soil from air and water access and. It is good to remove the debris using a rake or even a machine.
On rare occasions sometimes a misdiagnosis can occur. Yellow spots are not definite signs of chinch bugs. Sometimes they are just signs of other diseases, root rot, or dehydration. To make a good choice for the treatment, it is important that homeowners make a proper and correct diagnosis and come up with chinch bugs home remedy. If you are not sure, there are techniques you can use. The main one that is easy and simple is the floatation method. Grab a metal coffee can, make a hole or remove the entire bottom, and insert it into the soil that surrounds the infested grass. Fill the can with a lot of water continuously for the next five minutes. If there are chinch bugs present, they will start floating on the water, and you can go ahead and choose a plan to get rid of them.
How to Get Rid of Chinch Bugs
1 Cultural Control
One of the ways of chinch bug damage repair is exploring the cultural practices that people use. They are very advisable given that they greatly reduce the susceptibility of your lawn to chinch bugs. Most of the infestations come about as a result of poor management of the grass and can easily be solved. The major cultural practices that you should think of making a routine are fertilizing your soil, irrigation, proper mowing, among many others. Mowing is on top of the list. Using a bad mower and neglecting its blades is one of the major causes of future problems. The grass should be kept at an average height of 3 to 4 inches. This enables it to have a very commendable and strong root system that will be very effective when it comes to increasing the tolerance of infestation.
There is also a need to mow the lawn quite frequently. This will reduce the overall damage since it will ensure that not more than a third of a leaf blade is removed. Furthermore, using sharp blades will reduce the general stress that is caused on the grass resulting into less vulnerability when it comes to the chinch bug outbreaks.
In as much as fertilization is always a good means to increase the fertility of the soil and result in good yields, it can also cause a lot of damage in the process. This usually applies to fertilizers that are inorganic and are poorly tested. In this case, it is advisable to stay away from inorganic nitrogen fertilizers. This especially applies to those who believe in large applications of it. Most people overuse the fertilization not paying attention to the instructions that the manufacturer has enlisted on the packaging. This type of fertilizer causes a rapid grass growth that will directly increase the susceptibility of the lawn to chinch bugs infection. You can tone down on the damage that comes about after fertilization by using water-insoluble, multiple application, and time-release fertilizers.
Excessive moisture content sometimes causes stress in lawns. In a bid to keep the lawn green and healthy, you might find yourself going overboard when it comes to watering and irrigating the lawn. Without the proper information, it is advisable to keep the sprinklers activity at a minimum. Research shows that you should start irrigating only when there is evidence of wilting. You can tell by the color of the grass or when the edges begin to curl up. A little amount of water can go away. Less than an inch is capable and sufficient to rewet the top of the root zone (about 8 to 12 inches). As explained earlier, one of the major causes of stress and infestation on lawns is thatch. Heavy amounts of water always lead to heavy accumulation of a thick layer of thatch. The thatch not only damages the soil but also acts as the habitat for chinch bugs and their eggs. If your lawn has been exposed to a lot of rain and water, it will be easy to remove the thatch that has accumulated by mechanical means of power raking and vertical mowing.
As you remove the layers of thatch, it is also important that you aerate the lawn. You can combine this with top dressing. Aeration is very easy you can do it by punching holes in the soil to allow water and air penetration. Some machines can also effectively do the jobs better than human hands. Aeration will help all the problems that thatch brought to the soil hence limit the infestation of the chinch bugs. It also speeds up the microbial decay, therefore, will save you a lot of thatch removal in the future.
2 Chemical Control
The first thing you should do before using any chemical control is to remove all the thatch to ensure it does not limit the effectiveness of the pesticides. The most preferred method of using pesticides on chinch bugs is to only apply them to affected plants or infested areas. However, there are populations of chinch bugs that have developed resistance to pesticides so maybe making a home one is the best idea. The southern chinch bug, for example, needs a lot of pesticide application before the problem finally goes away. It is considered one of the most difficult and expensive to maintain.
There are lists of chemicals that you can use, especially if you are a homeowner. The first one is trichlorfon, which is available in a granular form. The nature of the chemical allows it to be applied onto a lawn using a seed spreader to allow even distribution and make sure it is not localized in one area. The rate that is recommended by professionals is 2 pounds per 1000 square feet of grass or lawn. It is different for liquid pesticides that have active ingredients there only require a rate of 05 for 1000 feet of lawn. Most of these liquid chemicals require irrigation of the lawn after application with about 0.25 inches. The water serves as treatment since it is very severe and can damage the lawn. There is also a chemical pesticide that is carbaryl. In its case, the lawn needs irrigation. The water will activate the ingredients. The powder is applied at a rate of 8 quarts for every 1000 feet of lawn. After application, you should not water the lawn for the next 24 hours.
If you are inquiring about solutions on how to get rid of chinch bugs in the house DE is the answer. DE, otherwise known as Diatomaceous Earth is also a method that you should consider using. It usually comes in powder form. The powder is realized after several diatoms are grounded. It is one of the most effective ways to destroy all kinds of pests including chinch bugs.
The major tactic that the powder uses is cutting up the exoskeleton of the chinch bugs and eventually kills them by drying them out. The powder usually comes in two distinct types the food and industrial grade. You can eradicate the bugs by spreading the powder lightly all over the infested area. The powder reduces its efficiency when exposed to water so do not irrigate and in case there is rain you should reapply it.
Some insecticides are appropriately labeled, so that also helps immensely when it comes to getting rid of chinch bugs. They are advisable because the main ingredients used in making them are animal fats and plant oils. They are known to penetrate the outer shells of chinch bugs just like the DE. They, however, work more effectively since they cause a lot of dehydration and death within the first few hours inside the bug. It is important to use it carefully. Otherwise, you risk killing the beneficial insects that might be natural predators. It is important to restrict the application only to the damaged areas where the infestation is.
Chemicals are considered one of the dangerous ways to get rid of pests. It is very important to put many considerations in place if you settle for using it. The first would be to read all the instructions and warnings that have been highlighted on the package. Following the instructions will also pay an extensive role in increasing the efficiency of the pesticide and also prevent damage that was unintended to your lawn.
3 Biological Control
Several methods were sought for after researchers realized that the chinch bugs were developing resistance to some chemical insecticides. One of the most approved methods was a biological approach.
This method became very popular since the late 1960s and the early 1970s. The method was emphasized more on reducing the damage of lawns so a natural way would solve the problem. Natural predators of the bugs were investigated, and the big-eyed bug was settled on. Other predators such as the striped earwig and anthocorids were also discovered as helpful.
However, through the years it has been noted that the natural predators are not as effective as they had been predicted to be. This prompted the need to plant resistant grass to complement the use of the predators. St. Augustine grass was introduced to help serve as a chinch bug resistant cultivar of turfgrass. With time, however, some of the species also adapted to this type of grass. The method works when you complement it with other techniques such as the use of chemicals.
How to Prevent Chinch Bugs?
If you wish to limit the difficulties that come with dealing with chinch bug treatment, you should consider preventing the infestation. You can actively prevent chinch bugs from invading your lawn. Make sure that your lawn is sheltered from the sun. Chinch bugs are known for preferring sunny lawns. It is advisable to plant trees and shrubs next to your lawn so that they will provide a lot of shade for your lawn and keep away the bugs. You can also prevent the bugs from infesting by making sure that you correctly prepare your lawn. This requires you to use soil that is made up of a third of compost, a third of crushed rock, and another third of sharp builder’s sand. An alternative plan would also be to research a lot on grasses and plant those that resist chinch bugs infestation. Aerating your lawn, fertilization, and also proper watering will also help.
Chinch Bugs Damage Control Tips