The Southern Chinch Bug is currently the most difficult to control and most damaging insect pest of St. Augustine grass in Florida. Nymphs and adults feed on plant fluids withing the leaf sheaths, down in the thatch, and this feeding kills the grass plants and contributes to weed invasion. Homeowners and lawn care companies seek to prevent this damage by repeatedly applying insecticides to keep Chinch Bug numbers low. However, numerous Chinch Bug populations have developed resistance to every major chemical class that has been used against them.
Southern Chinch Bug activity occurs from March through November in North Florida. It is estimated that 3 to 4 generations with overlapping life stages develop each year in our area. New damage may appear by May or June, depending on Spring temperatures, and any damage that existed in late Fall will become apparent in the Spring. Part of the difficulty in dealing with this pest is that one generation may develop in 4-6 weeks during the summer and any insecticides used to treat them will likely kill the adults and nymphs, but the eggs will survive. Then new nymphs will hatch, and the infestation will continue. Thus, damage may become visible again within 2-3 months of treatment.
Adult females may live up to 2 months, laying 4 or 5 eggs a day, or 250-300 eggs in a lifetime. Eggs hatch within 6-13 days, and nymphs mature in 4-5 weeks. Southern Chinch Bug populations tend to be clumped, rather than randomly dispersed throughout a lawn. Infestations generally occur in open, sunny areas near sidewalks and driveways, but also in the middle of a lawn. Infested plants have slower growth, turn yellow, and die. As their host plants die, individuals will spread to healthy turf and continue feeding.
The Southern Chinch Bug causes millions of dollars worth of damage each year in Florida. There is no way to fully prevent this pest from infesting a lawn, but with early detection and proper chemical applications, the damage can be mitigated. Proper cultural practices, like mowing, fertilizing and watering can also reduce the susceptibility of an infestation.
For more information visit EDIS IFAS Extension.
Call Grass Roots Lawn & Landscape, Inc. for all your Lawn Care needs. (850)897-3073 Niceville (850)832-4212 Panama City Beach