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Turf Pest of the Month: How to keep chinch bugs at bay

By |  January 29, 2024 0 Comments

Steve McDonald, chief plot sprayer and owner of Turfgrass Disease Solutions — a Pennsylvania-based consulting company — says identification is the most crucial thing a superintendent can do to stay on top of their chinch bug problem.

Of the several species of chinch bugs, the hairy chinch bug, identified by the white X on its back, is the most common for superintendents in North America. (Photo: David Shetlar)

Of the several species of chinch bugs, the hairy chinch bug, identified by the white X on its back, is the most common for superintendents in North America. (Photo: David Shetlar)

Chinch bugs —the most common being the hairy chinch bug — are turf killers that, according to McDonald, are elusive and indiscriminate feeders.

“I’ve seen it damage fescues and bentgrass. I’ve seen it on some zoysiagrass as well as ryegrass,” he says. “Once it gets into a stand, it can do a lot of damage pretty quickly.”

What to look for

Chinch bug damage will look similar to drought stress, according to McDonald.

“Many times, people will mistake it for drought stress and add water to it,” he says. “It won’t get better and then, around a week later, is when they’ll start to investigate more.”

Chinch bugs prefer dry and open areas, he continues, noting that you can sometimes see chinch bug damage stop at a shade line.

Steve McDonald

Steve McDonald

If superintendents suspect a chinch bug infestation, McDonald says there’s one surefire way to know.

“Pull the grass back and look at the soil surface where it meets the turf,” he says. “If you have hairy chinch bugs, you’ll see small insects with what looks like a white X on their backs, scurrying around. You won’t see one, you’ll see hundreds of them.”

He adds that there are other methods — including using soapy water on turf to float bugs to the surface — but getting hands-on is your best shot.

All about control

McDonald’s top recommendation for the control of chinch bugs is Syngenta’s Acelepryn Xtra.

“Acelepryn Xtra is a pretty unique solution. It contains chlorantraniliprole, which is the Acelepryn, and it contains thiamethoxam, which is the insecticide active ingredient in the Syngenta product Meridian. So it has two modes of action” he says.

McDonald adds that chinch bug control during tests of Acelepryn Xtra was a secondary effect found during cutworm trials on bentgrass in 2023.

(Photo: David Shetlar)

(Photo: David Shetlar)

“We had low rates of Acelepryn Xtra, but we saw phenomenal control of hairy chinch bugs for 45 to 60 days following the application in the summer, even at those low rates,” he says.

When applying Acelepryn Xtra for chinch bugs, McDonald says superintendents should aim for a mid-to-late June application. Damage will typically appear in early July, so the June application — which can coincide with white grub applications — will take hold before chinch bug populations build.

McDonald says a successful preventive program can last a few years.

“Many times, when I see superintendents intervene, they make an application and it decreases the pressure the next year substantially,” he says. “But it’s still important to remember that these insects have a pretty high population. So even if you get control of 90 or 95 percent, you could potentially have some issues the following year.”

 

About the Author: Rob DiFranco

Rob DiFranco is Golfdom's associate editor. A 2018 graduate of Kent State University, DiFranco holds a bachelor's degree in journalism. Prior to Golfdom, DiFranco was a reporter for The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio


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