With the rainy season in full swing and the hurricane season coming to a peak, heavy rains are going to be a part of our summer. With the heavy rains comes a new concern for our lawns. Insects and other pests may start to invade your lawn and garden as the summer progresses.
Some of these pests can be very destructive and in many cases, hard to control.
Probably one of the most common problems in our part of Florida is a little critter known as the Chinch Bug. These tiny bugs are about 1/5th of an inch long and their presence is most prevalent on St. Augustine grasses. They may be present in other grasses such as Bermuda and Centipede but not as often then you will see them in St. Augustine. The insects are black with white wings that fold over their body. The female lays eggs on roots, stems and leaves of the grass and up to 500 eggs can be laid at a time by one female. You can see how easily a colony can get out of control. The young insects will develop into adults in about six weeks.
Once these insects have settled into your turf, they begin to feed off of your grass. They get their nourishment by sucking the juices out of the grass blades with a special beak that nature has provided for them. Not only do they suck the life juice out of the grass but they also leave a toxin behind that causes the grass blades to yellow and brown. Usually, you will find these patches in bright sunny locations since that is what Chinch Bugs thrive on. The patches will usually start in a small area and slowly spread.
A fairly easy way to test your yard for Chinch Bugs is to obtain an empty coffee can and open both sides with a can opener. Push one end of the can into the ground and fill the other end with a soapy water solution. In about five or ten minutes, if you have an infestation, you will see the Chinch Bugs starting to float to the surface. Be sure you do the test in an area that has the brown patches. You may also want to try doing this test in several locations to get positive results.
Treating Chinch Bugs in your lawn has become increasing difficult, especially with Diazinon and Dursban taken off the market. There are substitutes that you can purchase at your local garden center. Be sure to look for a product that specifies Chinch Bugs on the label. You will generally get better results from a granular insecticide then you will from a liquid. If you choose a granular type, water your lawn thoroughly before applying the chemical. Be sure to treat your entire lawn, not just the infected area. Gently wet your lawn again after applying the chemical. It is important to note that you will have to apply a second and possibly a third application of the insecticide to completely eliminate the insects. If you do not adhere to this, the second generation of insects will emerge from the eggs and you will again have a full-blown infestation.
There are a few things you can do to help make life as unpleasant as possible for these critters. You should regularly de-thatch your lawn and eliminate the dead grass blades that build up over time, especially if you use the mulching option with your mower. Also it is important to keep your lawn as healthy as possible by maintaining a regular fertilizing schedule.
Joe Zelenak has more than 30 years experience in gardening and landscape. Send e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website, www.hometowngarden.com.