The southern chinch bug is currently the most difficult-to-control and damaging insect pest in Florida. Nymphs and adults feed on plant fluids within 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. Chinch bug populations have developed resistance to every major chemical class that has been used against them and host plant resistance has been overcome.
Southern chinch bug activity occurs from March through November in north-central Florida and is year-round in southern Florida. It is estimated that 3 to 4 generations with overlapping life stages develop each year in northern Florida and 7 to 10 generations develop in southern Florida. 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. Any insecticides used to treat turfgrass will likely kill most nymphs and adults, but the eggs will survive, nymphs will hatch, and the infestation will continue. Thus, damage may become visible again within 2 -3 months of treatment. Encroachment from neighboring lawns is also a possibility.
Proper insect identification is important before deciding that a problem exists. Adult southern chinch bugs (Figure 1) are about 1/8 to 1/10 of an inch long. The wings are folded flat on the back and are shiny white with a triangular-shaped black marking in the middle of the outer edge of each wing. Adults may have long or short wings, and populations often contain both. Their bodies are black.
Adult females may live up to 2 months, laying 4 or 5 eggs a day, or 250-300 eggs in a lifetime. Tiny eggs are laid singly or a few at a time in leaf sheaths, soft soil, or other protected areas. The eggs are white when first laid and turn bright orange or red just before hatching. Eggs hatch within 6-13 days (average: 10 days), and nymphs mature in 4-5 weeks. Young nymphs are reddish-orange with a white band across the back (Figure 2), darken in color as they mature (fourth instar), and turn black before becoming adults.
Other factors, such as disease, nematodes, nutritional imbalances, and drought can cause off-color areas to occur in lawns. Therefore, the lawn should be carefully examined to determine which corrective measures may be needed. Especially in areas where pesticide resistance is suspected, monitor before and after any treatments to determine if control has been achieved. If more than about an 80% reduction in chinch bug numbers has occurred, then the treatment was successful. Several methods can be used to find southern chinch bugs. The easiest and fastest is to part the grass near yellowed areas and look at the soil surface and thatch. Pull out individual grass plants and look inside the bottom leaf sheath. Examine several different areas if chinch bugs aren’t immediately found. Heavy infestations are easy to identify because large numbers of chinch bugs may migrate across sidewalks and driveways. Insects are most active on warm, sunny days in mid-afternoon.
AAA Pest Control South Florida is a full service, licensed and insured pest control company that has been serving the South Florida area for almost 30 years. We deal with all kind of pests including chinch bugs! Our technicians receive ongoing training involving safety updates and applications, which enables them to service our customers in the most efficient and effective manner.
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