Why Are There Brown Spots in my Lawn
Have you ever seen a lawn peppered with yellow or brown grass spots when the rest of the yard is healthy? Sometimes you can attribute this kind of damage to poor or overwatering, but the cause is often more sinister. Lawns like this have often become the prey of a nasty and brutal pest: The chinch bug.
Chinch bugs are insects from the family of true bugs with sucking mouthparts. This makes them related to box elder bugs, assassin bugs, and wheel bugs. In Florida, it’s the hairy chinch bug that causes the most damage.
How Do Chinch Bugs Cause Brown Spots?
Chinch bugs use those sucking mouth parts like needles and straws to drain your lawn of its vital fluids. They don’t go for the leaves. Instead, they get deep down and pierce the stem of your grass. As they feed, they inject the plant with venom. This venom is like the anticoagulants mosquitoes pump into you – It helps them feed.
However, it also poisons the plant. It turns them first yellow, then a ruddy brown. When the grass reaches this point, it usually dies. A lot of insects feed on grass, though. It’s the combination of loss of sap and the poison that kills the grass down to the roots. It’s not just a couple of leaves you’re losing; it’s each shoot of grass.
How Do I Know I Have Chinch Bugs?
Many people make the fatal mistake of trying to water browning grass, thinking it’s drying out. Chinch bug damage is easy to mistake for dry conditions. Unfortunately, this makes it easier for chinch bugs and other pests to attack your lawn.
There are a couple of reliable methods for detecting chinch bugs. The way we prefer is the coffee can test. Remove both ends of an empty coffee can and rotate it into the turf of your lawn. When you have a little “wall” formed by the can, fill it with water. Wait ten to fifteen minutes and count how many chinch bugs you can see floating to the top. As few as five bugs represent a significant problem.
Another method is the plastic bag test. Remove a small piece of your turf and place it into a sealable plastic freezer bag. Close the bag tight, and put it in the sun. Chinch bugs will try to run from the heat, and you can see how severe the infestation is. You have a damaging infestation if you see over a dozen chinch bugs.
Preventing Chinch Bugs
Since chinch bugs can be so hard to eliminate, prevention is critical. Like many pests, chinch bugs rely on lawns to be in a weak position when they arrive. Keeping your property evenly watered, fertilized, and firm can prevent chinch bugs from establishing. The easiest way to ensure an evenly watered lawn is to use an irrigation system.
American Irrigation can provide your lawn with the best watering system for any yard. On our website, you can read more about the various benefits of a home irrigation system. Even if your property runs into chinch bugs in the future, watering and fertilization will help it weather the storm. Give us a call today.