Does Your Lawn Have Chinch Bug Damage?

Does Your Lawn Have Chinch Bug Damage?

Yellow and brown dead patches in your grass are not always signs of lawn disease or drought stress. The damage left behind by the hairy chinch bug (Blissus leucopterus hirtus) looks very similar. Preferring cool season turfs like bentgrass, Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and tall fescue, this bad bug pierces grass blades and sucks out nutrients, eventually killing areas of the lawn. Most damage occurs during the hottest months of summer, especially during dry weather.

Identifying the Chinch Bug

Less than a quarter inch long, the body of an adult chinch bug is black with white markings on the wings. During the nymphal stage (pre-adult) the bugs are smaller, wingless, and have orange or red markings instead. Eggs are oval and whitish with blunt ends.

These insects favor dry, sunny locations. You’ll find them living in the thatch layer of the lawn or at the base of the grass blades. Hairy chinch bugs emit an unpleasant odor when crushed under foot. So that odd smell as you walk through the grass might be bugs.

Signs and Symptoms

Brown or dead patches of grass with yellowing borders indicate possible chinch bug damage. These patches expand and eventually converge. If you think this might be due to dryness, give your lawn a good watering. Damage from these pests won’t green up afterward.

Use the flotation or coffee can method to determine if you have enough chinch bugs in one area to warrant a serious problem. This requires a coffee can, or other container, with the lid and bottom removed. Most feeding activity is found where the yellowing grass border meets the greener lawn. Place the can half into the ground along the yellow border. Fill it almost to the top with water. After five to ten minutes you should see the insects floating on top. Four or more bugs floating indicates a problem. Your lawn can tolerate anything less.

Another method to bring the bugs to the top is to mix water and dish soap and soak a square-foot area of lawn with the solution. If you see 15 or more insects per square foot, it’s time to take action. Test your lawn often throughout the summer months.

Chinch Bug Prevention and Control

If chinch bug populations are unusually high, using chemical controls may be necessary. Insecticides work well on these pests, but it’s important to apply the right chemical at the right time to have success. Make sure to follow directions on the label exactly. Liquid formulas work best because they soak into the soil better. By performing the coffee can test, you can identify locations to apply spot treatments.

Like with most pests, diseases, and weeds, a strong healthy lawn is the best defense against the chinch bug. Healthy lawns tolerate smaller pest populations, and also contain many natural predators to keep the populations in check. Maintain your lawn with regular mowing, fertilizing, and watering, plus reseed bare or thinned areas. Here are some other ways to help prevent this bug from bothering your turf.

  • Keep the thatch layer of your lawn to a minimum by aerating.
  • Mow the lawn at the appropriate height for the grass type.
  • Don’t over fertilize.
  • Water your lawn. These pests prefer dryness and don’t do well in wet conditions, including heavy rain.

Need an Expert?

There are many look-alikes that can be mistaken for chinch bugs, like pirate bugs and big-eyed bugs. These insects are harmless. In fact, big-eyed bugs prey on chinch bugs, helping to keep the population down, so you don’t want to get rid of them.

If you’re unsure what’s causing your lawn to look sickly or what kind of pest is responsible for damage, call in an expert. Contact Free Spray Lawn Care today at [phone] and let us help you keep unwanted pests from destroying your lawn.

Watering Wisely: Lawn Sprinkler Tips

Watering Wisely: Lawn Sprinkler Tips

It’s sad to see a lush green lawn become lackluster with every passing summer day. But knowing the best way to water your turf is not always common knowledge. How much, how often, and when to water depend on a variety of factors.

If watering your lawn is a worrisome task, there are things you can do to make it easier. Installing an irrigation system is a solution, but it’s often a costly one. If you’re looking to save time and money while cutting back on water waste, a lawn sprinkler may be your best bet.

Is Your Grass Getting Enough Water?

Too much or too little? Giving your grass the right amount of water shouldn’t be guesswork. But knowing the signs of over and under watering will help you keep your lawn green in the summer heat.

Too little? A good indication that your lawn needs hydration is how it responds to foot traffic. As you step on the grass, blades should immediately bounce back up. Other signs that it’s time to water are dried out, curled, or wilted grass blades. Is your soil too dry? Try sticking a shovel or screwdriver into the ground. It’s easier to insert a tool into well hydrated soil than into dry soil.

Too much? On the other hand, too much water is just as damaging. It can lead to diseases like powdery mildew and root rot. And it leads to a shallow root system instead of a long, healthier one. If your lawn feels soggy underfoot for long periods of time, cut back on watering. Other signs you are watering too much are quick growth (and more mowing), limp grass blades, and a thicker layer of thatch.

Types of Sprinklers

Lawn sprinklers come in a variety of styles. Here’s is a description of some common designs to help you determine which one fits your needs.

Fixed or stationary. Easy to use and economical, these sprinklers deliver water through a pattern of holes. They come in different shapes and sizes to suit your needs and work well on smaller areas or gardens.

Impact or impulse sprinklers distribute water in an adjustable circular pattern. Because the jet of water shoots out low to the ground, there’s less evaporation and wind is less likely to disturb the spray.

Oscillating. Remember jumping through fans of water moving back and forth when you were a kid? The oscillating sprinkler features an arched tube with holes. Water shoots upward, creating a gentle spray that works well for delicate plants and newly seeded lawns. However, this type is not good for windy days.

Rotating. One or more arms rotate to spray water in a circular pattern. An efficient way to water larger areas evenly.

Traveling. Attached to a hose, the device moves across your yard with little to no supervision. Your yard must be level to accommodate this sprinkler. Sufficient water pressure is required to keep it going.

Hose. Great for long, narrow areas or gardens, this system features a garden hose with small holes along the top. Because water flow is low, this sprinkler tends to be less wasteful.

Call Us Today

Thick green grass is the sign of a healthy lawn. If you’re lawn is a little lackluster this summer, let us help. Contact Free Spray Lawn Care at 866-373-3777 today!

Irritated by Poison Ivy? Here’s What to Do

Irritated by Poison Ivy? Here’s What to Do

“Leaves of three, let them be.” We’ve all heard the popular rhyme about poison ivy, but it’s good to be reminded of it. Especially during summertime. From gardening to games to grilling, we’re often outside in the yard. It’s also prime time for poison ivy. Consider this a quick refresher on how to identify and control poison ivy this summer.

Identifying Poison Ivy

Also known as three-leaved ivy, poison creeper, and markweed, poison ivy (rhus radicans) is a common vine that grows throughout the United States. This chameleon of invasive weeds looks different depending on location and time of year. It changes color each season: red-tinged in spring; green in summer; yellow, orange, or red in fall; and leafless in winter. Some plants have tiny greenish flowers, while others feature small white or cream-colored berries in fall. Even younger vines vary in appearance from older ones.

As the rhyme states, look for clusters of three leaves. The oval-shaped leaves are glossy with some notches on the edges, although some varieties can be smooth. The center leaf has a longer stem than the outer two. Usually a climbing or trailing vine, this perennial also presents itself as a shrubby bush, mostly on the western side of the country. Vines have aerial roots that attach to other plants and trees or poles and fences as it grows. Older plant stems have a hairy appearance.

Signs and Symptoms

Admire this plant from a distance, because close encounters cause an itchy rash that’s quick to spread. Each vine contains an irritating chemical called urushiol that it releases when bruised or brushed up against. It’s this chemical that causes a rash and sometimes blisters to form on your skin. Animal fur, clothing, or objects can pass along the irritating chemical if they come in contact with the plant.

Most people are allergic to poison ivy but to what degree varies from person to person. Once in contact, wash the contaminated area with cold water as soon as possible, as well as your clothes. (Warm water opens pores and makes it easier for the toxins to get under your skin.) Although this won’t stop a reaction, it may prevent spreading. Follow with calamine lotion (this over-the-counter medicine is found at most pharmacies) to reduce the itch. And most importantly, don’t scratch! That spreads the rash.

Removal and Control of Poison Ivy

Removing poison ivy from your yard means being in direct contact with it, so dress properly. Wear a long-sleeved shirt, long pants tucked into work boots, gloves, breathing mask, and goggles. Once dressed in protective attire, approach with caution because all parts of a poison ivy plant contain the chemical irritant.

There are many herbicides on the market to kill the toxic vine, but use them with care because they kill other plants as well. Choose one containing glyphosate or triclopyr. On a dry, windless day follow these steps:

  • Use pruning shears to cut plant stems off at the ground.
  • Dig under the roots to remove them.
  • Take all plants, stems, and roots and put them in a plastic garbage bag.
  • Seal tightly and properly dispose of bags.
  • Use herbicide on any remaining roots or stem stubs.
  • Hose off boots, clean pruning shears, wash clothes, and shower immediately.

Never rip plants out of the ground. This can release the toxins into the air. And don’t be discouraged if you have to repeat the process again.

In Conclusion

“Leaves of three, let them be” may be words to live by, but they’re not always accurate. Poison ivy is often confused with other three-leaved plants, like Virginia creeper and box elder. Be sure you have the right one before you go to work.

As lawn-care experts, we are all too familiar with poison ivy and other irritating weeds. Call Free Spray Lawn Caretoday at [phone]. We’ll make sure your yard is free of harmful weeds so you can enjoy a carefree summer.

What Is a Sod Webworm?

What Is a Sod Webworm?

Named for the webbed network of tunnels it makes, the sod webworm (Crambus) is not a worm at all, but the larvae of a small moth. As a moth it doesn’t do any harm, but during the larval stage this pest loves to devour cool-season grasses, like Kentucky bluegrass, and can destroy a lawn. A native to the United States, the sod webworm was not imported like other invasive creatures. Although found in most lawns, these creatures are not a problem until the population gets out of control or your lawn is less than healthy.

Identifying Sod Webworms

Growing to approximately an inch in size, sod webworms are gray or tan in color with a brown head and dark round spots on the body. These caterpillar-like creatures feed on grass just above the soil or thatch line and store uneaten blades in their silky tunnels.

As adults, the small lawn moths are tan or light brown in color and sometimes have mottled patterns on their wings. Although they are about a half-inch long in size, the wingspan can be double that. They have long, snout-like protuberances on the front of the head. The moths remain hidden in the grass during the day. They achieve this by resting vertically in the grass and folding wings under bodies to create a profile as slim as the blade of grass on which they sit.

Sod Webworm Signs and Symptoms

The earliest signs of sod webworms show up in spring, but the most damage occurs later in the summer. Grass thins and has a cropped appearance. Eventually, irregular yellowish or brown patches develop. These areas grow in size and connect if the infestation goes unchecked.

Sod caterpillars create silky white tunnels throughout the thatch layer of the turf. They emerge at night to feed on the grass, often leaving behind tiny green pellets (fecal matter or frass) near the opening of the tunnels.

Sod Webworm Management

Because sod webworms live in thatch, keep this layer of your lawn to a minimum by aerating or raking. A little thatch is good, but too much makes it easy for them to thrive. Trim back trees and shrubs and let the sun shine in on your yard. These pests rarely feast in shaded areas.

The sod webworm larvae is a tasty meal for many predators like birds and certain insects. Beneficial nematodes feed on these pests, as well as others, and can be purchased at some garden centers.

If nematodes are not your thing, mix up a concoction of two tablespoons of dish soap and two gallons of water. Pour the mixture on infected areas of the lawn and watch the critters rise to the top to be raked away and destroyed.

If this does not work, you may have to go the chemical route. Ask an expert or someone at your local garden center for a pesticide that is effective on sod webworms. It usually takes a minimum of two applications, which should be applied late afternoon or early evening when the pests are about to feed.

Prevention

Like with most pests, diseases, and weeds, a strong healthy lawn is the best defense against sod webworms. Maintain your lawn with regular mowing, fertilizing, and watering, plus reseed bare or thinned areas. A thick lush lawn is no place for a pest.

Keep in mind that spotting moths in your yard does not necessarily mean you have a sod webworm infestation. It’s best to call in an expert to figure out what’s ailing your lawn. Contact Free Spray Lawn Care today at [phone] and let us help you keep unwanted pests from turning your turf into a mess.