The southern chinch bug is the most damaging pest to St. Augustine grass in Florida. Where you live in Florida will dictate when you need to treat for chinch bugs.
In Florida, around Jupiter, The Villages, Belleview , the eggs begin hatching around April, so you need to start treating in February. They will have 3 to 4 generations per year in those areas. Since chinch bugs have a life cycle of only 5 weeks, it may be necessary to treat twice, approximately 4 weeks apart when there is an active infestation.
If you live further south in Florida you will need to start treating for chinch bugs in January as their eggs begin hatching in February. Chinch bugs in South Florida go through seven generations per year. This makes treating for them a little more challenging.
Where do Chinch Bugs Live?
Misidentification of chinch bugs early on can lead to unnecessary and sometimes serious damage to turf. They damage only St. Augustine turf and are not considered pests in any other Florida grasses. Therefore, if you don’t have St. Augustine grass you don’t have to worry about them.
They have piercing sucking mouth parts and suck the juice out of the grass causing severe dehydration and damage. The first damage normally occurs where the road or sidewalk meet the grass, as it’s hotter there. However, new damage often occurs wherever the turf is not being watered properly.
How Do I know if I have Chinch Bugs?
One way to discover if you have chinch bugs is to get a large tin can, like a coffee can, and cut out both the bottom and top. Locate a place where the dead or dying grass meets the green living grass. There should be a yellowish tint to the grass around the edges of the damaged areas. Push the tin can into the ground in that area and fill the can with water. If the ground is too hard, you may need to use a knife to cut a circle in the dirt to accommodate the can. After about five minutes, you should be able to observe chinch bugs floating to the surface inside the can. You may also have to add water if it percolates through the soil quickly.
Adults are about a quarter of an inch long, black to dark brown in color, with white wings on their back. The young chinch bugs are easily recognizable because of their bright red color and white stripe on their back. Adolescent, or pre-adult chinch bugs, are somewhere in-between, growing wing pads and turning dark brown in color, but still have a white stripe across their backs.
What is the Life Cycle of the Chinch Bug?
Chinch bugs have a gradual metamorphosis that consists of three stages; egg, nymph, and adult. This means that when chinch bugs lay their eggs, they hatch out looking pretty much like the adults, only smaller. The immature stages of chinch bugs are known as nymphs. They are also a different color and lack wings. However, with each molt there is a slight change until they become adults. They receive wing pads after their first molt. Molting occurs when the insect sheds its hard body shell known as the cuticle, which is also known as an exoskeleton. The cuticle is very hard and allows for only limited growth, and therefore, the chinch bug must split and shed its cuticle in order to mature; this process is called molting.
Instars are the time between each molt, and refers to the form in which the insect appears after each molt. Before the old cuticle is shed, a new cuticle is already forming and allows for another limited increase in body size. Chinch bugs go through five instars before reaching adulthood.
Misidentification of chinch bugs early on can lead to unnecessary and sometimes serious damage to turf. Because their damage also mimics drought, disease, and other insect damage, you need to do a thorough inspection before starting a treatment program. Call Bates Exterminating to schedule your lawn inspection. 800-774-2651