Signs, Symptoms, and Suspects of a Chinch Bug Infestation: A Homeowner’s Guide to Pest Damage

Signs, Symptoms, and Suspects of a Chinch Bug Infestation: A Homeowner’s Guide to Pest Damage

Brown frazzled areas of grass seem to grow before your eyes as you look out at your yard. Is something sucking the life out of your lawn? You may have a chinch bug infestation. Often mistaken for drought stress, the damage caused by these invasive insects spreads fast and costs a lot to fix. Damaged turf may require a complete renovation. Here’s how to chase away chinch bugs before it’s too late.

Little Insects, Big Damage: Signs and Symptoms of a Chinch Bug Infestation

In the northern United States, hairy chinch bugs prefer Kentucky bluegrass. These damaging little devils live in the thatch layer or surface of turf. Covered in fine hairs, adult chinch bugs are black with white wings, while the young are orange and wingless. The bugs suck the sap out of grass blades. But that’s not the only problem. The insects leave their toxic saliva behind to do even more damage.

Damage caused by a chinch bugs shows up mainly in mid to late summer. The dead areas of grass grow in size as the pest population increases. In a matter of weeks, a chinch bug infestation often kills entire lawns.

Other Suspects of a Chinch Bug Infestation

The signs of a chinch bug infestation mimic other lawn issues, like drought, other pests, and turf diseases. Even in appearances, the chinch bug is sometimes mistaken for the big-eyed bug (Geocoris). Ironically, beneficial big-eyed bugs prey on chinch bugs. How do you know what’s hurting your lawn? Try the can test. Take the top and bottom off of a can and press it halfway into the turf. Then, add water to the can, refilling it as the soil soaks it up for about ten minutes. See how many bugs float up. If a couple dozen pests or more appear, you have a chinch bug problem.

Chinch Bug Infestation Solutions

To prevent a chinch bug infestation, plant endophytic-enhanced turfgrass. Endophytes are beneficial organisms that form symbiotic relationships with other living things. Harmless for lawns, the tiny organisms give grass a flavor chinch bugs dislike. The pests then look elsewhere for tasty turf.

Before going to chemicals, consider natural warfare. Beauveria bassiana, a parasitic fungus, thrives in hot, humid weather and attacks chinch bugs. Water regularly to keep conditions moist enough for fungus to do its job.

Already have an existing chinch bug problem? Insecticides with the ingredient pyrethroid effectively kill the pests. Liquid formulas work best because they soak into the soil better. Spot treat the infected areas.

We Can Help

Don’t let chinch bug damage destroy your lawn. If you see signs of any infestation or lawn disease, call in an expert. Contact Free Spray Lawn Care today at [phone] and we’ll bring your lawn back to life.

Summer Lawn Watering: A Guide to Take the Guesswork out of Greener Grass

Summer Lawn Watering: A Guide to Take the Guesswork out of Greener Grass

The summer heat is here and it’s time for us to soak up the sun and fun. But before we do, let’s talk about the lawn and what it needs to soak up. How do you know if your grass gets enough to drink to keep it green and growing during the drier months? Follow this guide to take the guesswork out of summer lawn watering.

How Often?

The rule of thumb for summer lawn watering is to irrigate less frequently for longer periods of time. This allows the grass to grow longer and stronger roots. If you water more often and for shorter periods of time, it encourages shorter root systems. In summary, don’t water daily, rather, water two or three times a week if there has not been a significant amount of rain.

How Much Is Enough?

Whether you provide it or Mother Nature does, most grass requires 1” to 1-1/2“ of water each week. But first, consider the soil type. Clay soil needs less water than sandy soil. To determine if your sprinkler system provides the right amount, place an empty can in the grass and measure the amount that’s accumulated after watering. Always factor in the amount of rainfall.

The Right Time for Summer Lawn Watering

Believe it or not, there’s a right time and a wrong time for summer lawn watering. The worst time to water is in the afternoon, when the sun’s heat is the strongest. Most moisture evaporates in the heat before reaching the roots of grass down deep in the soil. And nighttime irrigation presents a problem as well. Cooler temperatures and lack of sun cause water to remain on the grass all night. These conditions create a great environment for fungus and other lawn diseases. For most efficient results, water in the morning before 10:00 am.

Want Help with Summer Lawn Watering?

Summer lawn watering is not so simple. Too little or too much of a soaking harms the grass. And many factors affect irrigation. Where you live, type of grass, type of soil, and whether or not it’s a new lawn must be considered. Contact a lawn-care expert if you have any questions about irrigating your lawn or lack the time for a proper watering routine. Call Free Spray Lawn Care today at [phone].

How to Properly Identify Poison Ivy and Other Irritating Plants

How to Properly Identify Poison Ivy and Other Irritating Plants

Whether you are working in the yard or walking in the woods, encountering poisonous plants puts a huge damper on the day, and the itchy days that follow. Here’s how to properly identify poison ivy and other poisonous plants before they suck the fun out of your summer.

Common Traits of a Tricky Trio

Beware hikers and homeowners! Poison ivy, oak, and sumac all possess the power to irritate. This is due to an oily coating called urushiol. It covers the leaves, stems, and even the roots of this tricky trio of plants. Coming in contact with any part of the plant transfers the oil to your skin, causing an itchy rash to arise not long after. All three types of these plants cause the same symptoms on skin: itchy, red, swollen patches often accompanied by blisters.

How to Identify Poison Ivy

What makes it difficult to identify poison ivy is that its appearance changes depending on the season, location, and type of environment. The leaves, however, always have pointed tips and cluster around a stem in threes, the middle leaf being larger than the outer ones. Growing as a low shrub or vine, the poison ivy’s leaves are green in summer, yellow or orange in fall, and have a reddish hue in spring. Yellow-green flowers and whitish berries often appear in the summer.

Poison Oak

Poison oak also possesses a cluster of three leaves, however, some varieties of this shrub-like plant have more. Found on both coasts in the United States but not often in the central states, this poisonous plant boasts leaves that resemble oak tree leaves. Green in spring, yellowish green in summer, and brown in fall, the leaves are slightly scalloped with rounded tips that differentiate them from poison ivy.

Poison Sumac

Often found in swampy conditions and humid environments, poison sumac grows as a small tree or tall shrub. The long oval-shaped leaves of poison sumac are smooth edged and turn orange in spring, dark green in summer, and reddish orange in fall. Unlike poison ivy and oak, though, sumac features anywhere from seven to 13 leaves on each of its reddish stems.

Call Us for Help Identifying Poison Ivy

It’s bad enough when weeds spoil the appearance of your lawn, but poisonous ones are even more of a problem. Hopefully, this article helps you identify poison ivy easily, allowing you to enjoy summer rash free and ready for wherever the trails take you. Call Free Spray Lawn Care today at [phone] to discuss unwanted weeds in your yard.

Identifying Sod Webworm Damage and What to Do About It

Identifying Sod Webworm Damage and What to Do About It

On warm summer evenings, light brown moths flutter and fly low over lawns. These long-snouted moths are harmless, however, their larvae, sod webworm caterpillars, are not so innocent. Sod webworm damage turns your turf into a mottled mess. Here’s how to recognize if these pests are the problem.

Why Worry About Sod Webworms?

Webworm moths lay eggs in spring and their caterpillar larvae create silk-like tunnels in the thatch or top layer of turf. Here, they remain in close proximity to their food source, the grass. Cool-season turf, like Kentucky bluegrass, tastes best to these pests. Brown with dark heads and spots on their bodies, these caterpillars are approximately 1/2” long in size. A few of the ravenous creatures won’t do much harm, but an infestation means major problems for your landscaping.

Sod Webworm Damage

Detecting sod webworm damage confuses many because it’s often mistaken for other forms of damage. Dog urine, drought, or other pests cause the same sickly symptoms in grass. As webworms devour the grass, small brown patches appear in otherwise green turf. Spring leads into summer, and these patches of dead or half-eaten grass grow in size, eventually taking over the better part of a lawn. The worst of sod webworm damage shows up from the middle to end of summer in sunny or dry areas of the yard.

Determining the culprit of the devastated grass is step one. Dig into the lawn’s thatch layer or topsoil. If you see a silky maze of tunnels and/or the caterpillars themselves, you know it’s sod webworm damage. Another method uses a mix of dish detergent and water. Pour the soapy solution on damaged areas. After a few minutes, the spotted pests appear if they are lurking beneath the surface.

What to Do About Sod Webworm Damage

Now that you know sod webworms are the culprit, consider taking a natural approach to control them.

  • Using the soapy solution works well on smaller infestations. When caterpillars emerge, simply scoop them up and get rid of them.
  • However, a serious infestation requires more than detergent. Try biological controls like beneficial nematodes. These tiny living things feed on caterpillars. Purchase them at a local garden center.
  • Another non-chemical approach is bacillus thuringiensis B.t., a type of bacteria that is toxic to the larvae. Apply it in late afternoon to ensure it works when the caterpillars feed at night.
  • Lastly, if you reseed your lawn, use grass seed labeled “endophyte enhanced” which means it’s engineered to resist certain pests.

We Can Help

Severe infestations require immediate attention and possibly the use of chemical pesticides. Call in an expert to handle it. Contact Free Spray Lawn Care today at [phone].