We have noticed elevated chinch bug activity in NH this summer, especially in the New London area. Any unusual browning surrounded by healthy green grass is suspect and may have chinch bugs. Brown spots may appear as small pockets or larger patches and they will slowly grow in size. If your lawn has unusual browning that just does not look right, please give us a call or e-mail for a free consultation.
Posts Tagged ‘chinch bugs’
Brown lawns can spell trouble when the general assumption is drought is the cause. While dry soil and heat exposure can certainly result in tan or brown grass; disease and insect infestation can mean an unpleasant surprise. I have been seeing extensive second generation chinch bug damage in NH and VT lawns in 2013. In some cases, the scope of the damage has been magnified by a population explosion which began in 2012. Without proper diagnosis and action, chinch bug populations build exponentially month by month with two generations per year in most locations. Since 2012 was so hot and dry, many assumed the browning in their lawn was the result of harsh weather. While this may have been true in many cases, some browning masked chinch bugs. If your lawn is brown now with an abundance of rain, you might have an insect and or disease problem. Without looking up close, this small insect is difficult to identify. A small pocket of chinch bug damage in your lawn can be as small as your fist or hand, while larger infestations can move like locusts across your lawn devouring a half acre or more over months. I have seen both ends of the damage spectrum and everything in between over the last month. Generally, you treat for chinch bugs because left alone, they will simply overwinter as adults, and start over again next spring; building in size and eating power with each successive generation. The math is simple; a lawn treatment spraying for chinch bugs is much more cost effective than thousands in a lawn repair or renovation.
While chinch bugs may reign supreme as surface lawn destroyers, disease can also pop up quickly with humid and warm weather. Several diseases which can cause fast browning and turf loss are brown patch and pythium. Like most fungal diseases, temperature and moisture are critical factors and can influence the likelihood your lawn will become infected. Warm temperatures overnight, usually between 60 to 65 degrees and moisture due to an evening or late afternoon thunderstorm are a perfect storm for pythium and brown patch. Ryegrass is especially susceptible to pythium fungus, a fast moving disease that usually kills grass when it appears. Pythium damage can be seen as sunken, greasy, waterlogged patches of grass which appear matted. Brown patch is best identified by lesions on the leaf blade with a tan interior and a brown or yellow perimeter. Brown patch can appear as small blotches or patches up to several feet in diameter.
While fungicides can be helpful, best results are achieved proactively versus reactively and even then there is no guarantee. Most fungicides only last a week or two under ideal conditions and if you look at the past weather this summer, an ideal spray program would equate to 4-6 proactive treatments; bordering on a golf course regime! Your best bet to combat both pythuim and brown patch is to mow high (3”), mow when the lawn is dry, and use slow release fertilizers in the summer at reduced rates. Run your irrigation only in the morning and keep the cycle deep and infrequent. You can kill your lawn with kindness by watering too much or watering every day regardless of the weather. A lawn with wet feet overnight is an ideal candidate for contracting brown patch or pythium. If your lawn does contract brown patch, it may recover on its own depending upon the severity but some turf thinning is likely. If your lawn succumbs to pythium, often reseeding or over seeding is the only solution in the fall to replace dead grass.
The weather never ceases to amaze me when it comes to throwing curve balls during a given summer. While 2012 was one of the hottest and driest on record, 2013 may go down as the wettest and most humid! Don’t let your lawn head into winter damaged; fall is the best time to fix things before 2014. Aeration, over seeding and or lawn repairs are relevant and appropriate turf improvement services offered by your local lawn care professional. Don’t despair, school starts soon!
I visited many lawns this past week infested with grubs, chinch bugs, and even ticks. The picture below illustrates classic chinch bug damage with active chinch bugs feeding as adults. The picture to the right is that of an adult chinch bug. The lawn was thatchy and not a current client but certainly needs some help from my program. Left untreated, these adults will have lots of kids and spread to other areas, causing further damage this spring. Recommended treatment for chinch bug is a surface insect control, either organic or traditional in nature to stop the feeding. Aeration and seeding may also be warranted to help restore the turf area for a more pleasant view versus brown thatch. If you suspect insect damage, be sure to contact a local professional for a lawn inspection, not an over the phone lawn quote from a satellite.
Fall is an excellent time to repair the damage caused by the summer of 2010. Now is the time to act. Now is the time to prepare your lawn for next spring by adding new grass to brown or bare spots. Even if your lawn seems ok, there is always work which can be done to improve it for next year. If your lawn suffered from the hot, dry weather of 2010 don’t think you are alone. Most grass suffered under minimal rainfall, above average temperatures, and brutal heat which in turn promoted insect and drought damage. Don’t be fooled and think your lawn is brown simply from a lack of water or heat. Any brown areas in your lawn in September or October can be prime indicators of chinch bugs, white grubs, sod webworms, or other noxious turf pests. If you are in doubt, have an expert examine your lawn because many of these pests will not go away. In fact, they will overwinter and return next spring only to continue the population explosion and expand their dominion conquering your lawn and raising the flag of victory. The problem is, the flag is not your’s and will only mean expensive renovations and possibly drastic measures to eliminate the enemy.
What procedures should you consider? Aeration is at the top of the list and can be done up until the ground freezes in November. Seeding after aeration is called overseeding and is a great procedure. For most of us in Upper Valley region, we can seed well into mid October and still expect decent results in most years. Depending upon weather conditions, seeding later is a roll of the dice and results may be reduced by the onset of early snow or unusually cold weather. Have sea kelp applied to your lawn to improve root density and promote organic matter. Let us not forget lime, our old friend who will adjust soil pH so fertilizer works better. Of course, applying a high potassium fertilizer in addition to a standard balanced fertilization is wonderful- especially in October. Potassium thickens cell walls and makes the grass more resistant to drying out, ice and drought damage. Many benefits are derived from a late season balanced fertilization which is not intended to push top growth, but become stored for use next spring in the root system and soil environment. The tougher your grass, the better it can withstand ice, cold, and the drying winds of winter.
In summary, a lot of things can be done in a very short period of time to provide a whole lot of benefit to your home or commercial lawn area. Don’t miss the window of opportunity to enhance your brown lawn this fall.
Chinch bugs are under rated and a delightfully evil little lawn pest. They love hot weather and can devastate a lawn if left unchecked in mere days to weeks. Don’t think your are in the clear if you live out in the woods, these pests will find your lawn and eat it while you sleep. They are small, they are shy and hide down in the thatch layer where you don’t see them. Chinch bugs vary in color but the adults have an unmistakable white diamond on their backs.
These tiny little fellows have kids that range in color from orange, to gray, to black before reaching the slim classic adult with the diamond back. They are about 1/8″ long and run fast when you uncover their hiding places. A trained eye can easily spot them but unless you are down at ground level forget about it, these guys will party until your lawn is dead and gone. The funny thing about chinch bugs is they get about two generations in NH and VT. Left to their own evil plans, chinch bugs populations will build over time- especially in dry weather. Since the adults overwinter and hide for the following year- the population will continue to expand and move further into your lawn. In other words, chinch bugs do not die over the winter, they hide and wait for warmer weather like many of us!
I recently visited a lawn which pictures I have enclosed in this post. I have not seen this many chinch bugs since the late 90′s! Oh my word, there were so many, they were climbing up the garage door and foundation. Can you say science fiction? Not in this case- this is real. If you view these pictures- the lawn has a grey tint to it versus a brown or tan. While most lawns will only suffer blotches or patches, a heavy infestation will cause extreme thinning and the unmistakable look of death- grey. This lawn has suffered massive damage and most of the turf will not recover especially with heat and drought stress. We treated the lawn to clean up these villans today mostly to save the front lawn and stop the population explosion underway.
If you have any doubt, have a professional check it out. This homeowner went to a local garden center and a few other “experts” and no one could determine the identity of this bug. This is why licensed, educated, field experienced veterans like myself are truly of value and set the bar of those in the industry by merit and deed. Don’t let a brown lawn stay brown, make sure it is checked.
High heat and a lack off rainfall is double trouble when it comes to your cool season lawn- whether in NH or VT. Brown grass results within days if not weeks after prolonged heat and an absence of rainfall. What is a homeowner to do?
At this time of year, most action would be preventative such as proper cutting height (3”), lime, slow release fertilizer, mulched clippings to enhance organic matter, not mowing during the heat of the day, and having over seeded with a drought tolerant turf. In terms of no rainfall, unless you have an irrigation system setup properly or a very shaded lot- browning is as inevitable as bacon in skillet on Sunday morning. Hmm, you can just hear the sizzle and smell the lawn drying out to a golden brown!
On a serious note, its not the browning of your lawn that is a huge thing, but what might eat it while brown. You would never know of an attack because green turning to brown might get your attention while outside. What about brown staying brown? Nothing can indicate a problem- no color change. Now is the time to monitor for chinch bug, grub, or sod webworm activity either yourself or by hiring a professional licensed lawn care company.
In terms of watering, anything is helpful- but don’t expect that magical green you would see in the spring or fall. Providing an inch or more of water may not even be allowed if there is a ban like many towns are now experiencing here in NH. Since most grass needs about an inch per week, anything else helps to keep the dormant turf alive as it remains in a hibernation state. High heat will brown out and cause all kinds of blotches and spots in a treated or non-treated lawn setting- it is plain just too hot for cool season grass when the mercury rises above 85 to 90. High heat can cause white blotches on the leaf blade to creating drought stress as dull blue or purple sections. Further stress results in a tan or light brown lawn as the plant shuts down to preserve itself. Remember, grass blades are 99% water, so no water- no grass to grow!
Now is not the time to apply liquid fertilizer or herbicides- the result can be a disaster resulting in what I call “corner to corner grey or brown turf”. A trained eye can spot this kind of chemical induced stress. High soluble fertilizers place undue stress on a lawn already on the edge. Mowing during the heat of the day is like lying on your driveway at noon- hot and unpleasant. Any remaining moisture is quickly lost through the fresh cuts as the lawn literally wilts in hours- sometimes causing massive browning. Stressed turf is highly susceptible to mower tracks from the weight of a tractor. This is also true of lawn care companies that use perma-greens and other powered equipment to apply fertilizer, lime, or herbicides- the pure weight causes tire tracks and the resulting brown lines! A light touch using smaller spreaders helps to minimize this issue.
In short, high summer heat is not customary in NH or VT, but when it does occur- be sure to watch out for insect damage, water if you can- what you can, don’t mow if you don’t have to- especially during 11am to 3pm, and cut high 3” to 3.5”. Don’t feel obligated to mow when not mowing is really the best course of action.
Take a vacation and have some fun- but make sure you take care of your investment!