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News & Press: OTF News

Chinch Bugs - Ya Gotta Look!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015  
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Written by David Shetlar, Ph.D.

I have to chuckle when I ask turf managers at our winter conferences to show their hands if they saw chinch bugs last year! I have been seeing a steady increase in the number of hands raised! I don’t think that this means that we are having an increase in chinch bug populations and damage, but more people are actually taking the time to LOOK!

Chinch bugs are so easy to miss and misdiagnose! Their damage looks like drought stress, disease, billbug damage or some other malady. In fact, I was talking to a homeowner two years ago about the chinch bugs in their lawn. She was really angry as their lawn care company had sold them a $200 treatment for dollarspot! Really?! It took our crew about two minutes to make the diagnosis, but we had stopped my car, got out, dropped down on our hands and knees and LOOKED!

We are seeing most of the chinch bug damage in newly sodded Kentucky bluegrass lawns, but they can also be common in neighborhoods that have Kentucky bluegrass lawns that are well fertilized and irrigated. This goes counter to the dogma about chinch bugs – that is, they do best in drought. More importantly, when we find one chinch bug-infested lawn, we find more in the neighbors’ lawns. This suggests that there are chinch bug neighborhoods!

The first generation of chinch bugs in Ohio reach their peak in mid- to late June, so that is the time to do the "hands-and-knees” inspection routine! If you find chinch bugs, they are easy to knock down with bifenthrin (Talstar), but beta-cyfluthrin (Tempo Ultra), deltamethrin (DeltaGard) and lambda-cyhalothrin (Scimitar) as nearly as good. A single application of these pyrethroids usually will take the population out for the rest of the summer.

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