Quick Tip: Why Gainesville Chinch Bugs Aren't a Cinch to Control

This time of year, we have clients call several times a week about cinch bug infestions in their lawn. The call usually goes something similar to this:

"I have a chinch bug problem in my St. Augustine lawn. I bought the granular pesticide from Lowe's that guaratees to kill chinch bugs, but it either is not working or the treatment isn't working fast enough because my brown spot is still growing. I don't want to resod just because of lawn pests. What should I do?"

Chinch bugs are the most destructive lawn pests we have and are also the most difficult to control - especially without the right equipment. The heat of summer really brings them out. They damage the grass by sucking the plant's juices. Normally, we first see the damage to the grass in the hottest and driest areas of the lawn first - many times near the driveway or sidewalk. A clump will go from green to yellow to brown in color within about a week. If you get down on your hands and knees and look very closely at the interface of the green grass and the damaged grass, you should see small gray insects, a little smaller than a grain of rice. You can try to flush out the chinch bugs by making a bucket of very soapy water and pouring it over a couple of square feet of damaged grass. After a few minutes, the chinch bugs will crawl up the grass blades and you can get a better idea of how many insects you are dealing with.

You're probably spreading the same product many other homeowners and lawn pest control businesses have found ineffective. According to Dr. Eileen Buss, a UF/IFAS landscape entomologist, there are pesticide-resistant chinch bugs in localized areas of Gainesville. Chinch bugs have become resistant to Bifenthrin, a very popular turf pesticide. Bifenthrin used to be extremely effective against chinch bugs, but now the insects have developed some resistance to it over time.

Therefore, it is important that you have a Gainesville lawn pest control company that uses a management strategy that includes pesticide rotation, application rates, and making sure that the product they use is watered in. The problem with using a granular insecticide is that if the lawn isn't watered enough after it is spread, it doesn't provide great control. The lawn pests are controlled much faster with a liquid application that has just the right mixture and application to cover the lawn consistently.

One of the chemicals that is used in our rotation of prevenative treatment requires that the insects feed on the grass before they die. This prevents chinch bugs from ever getting to an infestation without using a chemical thay've developed resistance to. If your lawn service company is using the proper chemical rotation and using the right application rates, you can expect control of the chinch bugs. There currently is research going on to deal with the pesticide resistance in the chinch bugs in Florida, as well.

The best way to prevent chinch bugs from moving into your lawn is by following good cultural practices. Use a lawn company that treats your lawn more prevantively for lawn pests, rather than reactively. Use a company that fertilizes with good portion of nitrogen in a slow-release form. Frequent applications of water soluble nitrogen fertilizers may increase chinch bug survival, development time and the number of eggs that they lay. This is why we only use granular fertilization for better and long-lasting lawn results.

Mowing at the correct height is another good cultural practice that will make your lawn less prone to chinch bug damage. Mow your standard St. Augustine grass at 3 to 4 inches. 

By applying lawn insecticides preventatively, fertilizing with slow-release granular products, irrigating properly, and mowing at the correct height, The Master's Lawn Care can save your lawn from experiencing Gainesville chinch bug damage before it begins. Read more about our program here!