Chinch Bugs in Tulsa
Chinch bug damage can look a lot like drought stress, especially since the little critters usually chow down on your lawn when it’s really hot. They suck the juices out of your grass, while injecting a toxin at the same time. The toxin in their saliva disrupts the grass’s ability to take up water and distribute nutrients, so it turns brown. Whenever you see an area that is not responding to watering and is spreading, consider that you may have a chinch bug problem.
Chinch bugs are really tiny (1/8 of an inch,) so you can’t see them unless you get down to the base of the turf and look really closely. They’re black with white wings that fold over their backs and look like an hourglass shape. The nymphs (young ones) are reddish-brown with a white stripe across their “shoulders.” The fabulous close-up picture below was taken by Tom Murray and is featured on the very cool website BugGuide.net. On BugGuide you can look up different insects and get help identifying them.
Chinch bugs like to feed at the base of the grass plants, so they’re usually down in the thatch layer. This makes a very good point for keeping thatch under control by scalping bermuda grass every spring, and mowing properly. If you don’t mow often enough, and you leave the clippings on the lawn when you finally do mow, you can get thatch buildup. Thatch buildup can be corrected by dethatching, with a dethatching machine – it has vertical blades that pull out the thatch. Dethatching is a major ordeal and should only be done if necessary, and only when the grass has time to recover before going into dormancy in the fall. It should not be done if the lawn is stressed by drought. Most people never need to dethatch if they scalp every spring and mow properly. Dethatching is for NOT for cool season grasses like fescue or rye.
If you can’t see chinch bugs, do the “coffee can check” to be sure, since the bugs are so tiny. Cut both ends off of a coffee can and stick one end into the ground. Fill it with about ¾” of water. If you have chinch bugs, they will float to the top.
If you live in Tulsa, sign up for our blog, and we’ll let you know when we see a chinch bug infestation beginning, so you can be on the lookout!