Question of the Week Number 2: July 11, 2019

You’ll notice the grass at the top looks extremely dry, while the grass just a few inches down is still bright green. These are classic symptoms of the spread of chinch bugs.

“Why is my St. Augustine turning tan and looking dry?”

This photo was sent to me by a friend who takes very good care of his St. Augustine lawn. It’s been raining where he lives in Texas up until the past couple of weeks, and I know that he waters when things get dry. Yet his lawn looks like it needs to be irrigated. So what’s going on?

I told my friend, and I’ve told several other people who have asked – chinch bugs are out again. They come out every year in early summer.

Continued Below

Stages in life of chinch bugs. Blake Layton, Mississippi State University.

How to know if you have chinch bugs…
Here are the ways I know if chinch bugs are in my lawn again.

They show up within 2-3 weeks of the same time each year. May or June in Deep South Texas. June or early July in the rest of the state.

They’ll come back to the same parts of your yard every time.

They’ll always be in the hottest, sunniest part of your yard – never in the shade.

Grass will appear dry, but watering won’t help. It will still be wilted the next morning. (You learn to recognize the look.)

That’s when it’s time to get down on your hands and knees and look for the tiny insects. The adults are BB-sized, black with irregular white diamonds on their wings. The smaller nymphs are red.

Part the grass to look for chinch bugs.

Part the grass at the interface between healthy and drying grass. Don’t bother looking in the browned areas. They will have migrated to the outside of the infested area.

Nurseries, hardware stores and feed stores have several good insecticides that are labeled for control of chinch bugs. Don’t delay. They can do permanent damage in just a few days.

This damage was done in the Dallas area last summer. I took the photo in late June. Chinch bugs had killed most of this lawn entirely.

If you have sections of your lawn that have actually been killed by the chinch bugs you will have to replant with new grass. Either dig plugs from healthy parts of your lawn or buy sod and cut plugs to plant.

Posted by Neil Sperry
Back To Top