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August Landscapes – Chinch attack could leave millions in turf damage

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Lawns across the state are under attack

Chinch bug epidemic could cost millions in turf damage this year

Chinch bugs normally don’t strike here in North Texas until late August. They showed up in late June due to the unusually hot temperatures and lack of rainfall. Given so much more time to work with – their damage could be historic this year. Millions of dollars of damage to Texas lawns could be left in the wake.

Lawns all over Texas are under attack right now by Chinch Bugs. It has become such an issue in this state that I changed this column to further address it (I was going to write about Koi ponds). Everywhere you look as you drive through neighborhoods, there is Chinch damage.

The biggest problem in overcoming Chinch is the lack of recognition by the public at large. Most folks just think their lawns are suffering from our dry spell. Some have even bragged on message boards about not having to mow much lately.

But their lawns are being destroyed, not dried out. Destroyed. 


Chinch bugs are vicious little insects that dine on the juices of St Augustine, Bermuda and Zoysia grass. They begin small colonies that grow into large colonies. The larger the colony becomes, the more difficult it is to eradicate them. Their damage looks much like a blow torch was taken to your lawn. Active Chinch attack will leave a slight copper color in the turf.

Some people confuse their damage with a sprinkler issue. However, you can distinguish because Chinch damage will show spots of dead turf while mixed in with green turf. There’s no explanation for why in one spot the grass is dead while inches away its green. That is classic Chinch damage.


You will find Chinch bug damage in the hottest spots of the lawn, where the most direct sunlight will hit and also near concrete/stone/brick/metal which heats up in direct sun. Chinch bugs gravitate to the hot spots. You will not find them in shaded turf.

You can choose to treat these pests yourself or contact a landscape professional and have them do this for you.

If you choose to treat them yourself, you will want to purchase a product called Bifen XTS®. It is a liquid insecticide/miticide that will kill the Chinch bugs. The liquid would be mixed with water, per the label directions on ratio, and you would spray the damaged areas as well as a 1-foot perimeter surrounding those damaged spots.

If you use this product, make sure you also wear long sleeves and pants, protective gloves, eye protection and a mask over the mouth and nose. You can combine with a surfactant to insure the product stays where you spray it.

You may need to spray again from week to week while the threat of Chinch remains high in your neighborhood.

To protect against Chinch, long-term, use a granular insecticide such as Arena or Spectracide's Triazicide® in the granular form (also comes in a liquid).

I am sharing some photos of what Chinch damage looks like. I’m sure you’ll be able to find similar lawns in your own neighborhoods. The key here is informing homeowners of the Chinch presence and getting it treated. As long as they are present in your neighborhood, there will be a threat of them returning.

Otherwise, the threat will not end until the cooler temperatures and rain that Fall will bring. If the state’s dry spell extends into October, the risk factor will remain high. This is not to be taken lightly.

One way to test your lawn for Chinch would be to take a coffee can, cut out the ends, and stick one end of the can into the soil to about a half-inch depth. Fill the top of the can with slightly soapy water. If there are Chinch bugs present, they will float to the top.

You might ask . . . “If my lawn doesn’t have Chinch bugs present, how do I keep them out?”

Keep your lawn watered and healthy. Do not mow your lawn short during hot temperature months. Keep as much stress off the lawn as possible. Chinch bugs are attracted to stressed turf. If you have a mowing service, ask them to blow out their mower decks prior to mowing your lawn. Chinch can be transported from lawn to lawn by mowers.

Be on the look out for other insects that are becoming more active with the hot weather. Scale and aphids are two culprits that will attack Crape Myrtles, Indian Hawthorns and even Texas Sage shrubs. The same Bifen XTS will remedy those pests as well as Malathion.

Apply Fertilizer, Pre-Emergent this month!

August is the month where we apply our last fertilization of the year. It is also the month we apply our second application of pre-emergent. Lets refresh ourselves with how we should approach both for this time of year.

Fertilizer will make turf very thirsty, so make sure you’re able to water the day of and the day after applying your fertilizer or weed/feed.

Reduce your ratio by one-third for this application, because it is so hot. This will help prevent your lawn from fertilizer burn. So what the bag recommends on ratio, reduce that by at least a notch on the spreader. Use a fertilizer that is in the 15-19 range for Nitrogen. Keep it mild.

For pre-emergent, there is no such thing as overdoing it. The heavier your application is, the more effective it will be.

You will want to get both of these applications completed before the end of the month. Those is south and east Texas should get it done by mid-August while those in Central and North Texas have a little more time.

Change those sprinkler start times this month

If you’ve been following this column then you are watering your lawn and landscape during the evening and nighttime hours. Doing this has given our plants and turf more time to spend and benefit from the water we provide it. However, that will change on or before the Labor Day holiday. At that point, we’ll return to morning watering cycles instead of nighttime cycles. Doing this helps us avoid creating the conditions that bring about turf fungus such as Brown Patch, Take-All Patch and Dollarspot.

The Summer Solstice was in late June, so the day time hours since that date have been getting shorter. In August, the days continue to get shorter but more significantly, the nights get longer and cooler. If we’re combining our water with longer period of darkness and cool termperatures, the set up then exists for the emergence of lawn fungus. So we want to avoid that by changing our start times back to morning starts, preferably around 5 a.m. or 6 a.m.

Be Careful With The Algae Kill Products

Ample sunlight, hot temperatures and endless supply of water equals the perfect setup for algae formation and growth. Anyone with a koi pond knows the algae becomes something to deal with during the months of July and August. And of course, consumers buy anti-algae and algae-kill products to fight back the menace.

I want to caution you not to use too much, even though the need may be great. Fish depend on oxygen in the water to survive. Our pumps help create enough oxygen to support the life of koi in our ponds.

However, the amount of oxygen in water is reduced when temperatures are warm or hot. With that in mind, algae-kill products greatly reduce the amount of oxygen in the water. So even slightly overdoing the amount of the product you put in can end in very bad results. More is not better. More can kill your fish.

(Mark’s column each month is sponsored by Stagecoach Trailers, Inc., of Naples, Texas. Find them at www.stagecoachtrailers.com)


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Get the Bifen. It works. Also, in my case, I had an infestation of Crane Flies eating my lawn in a similar fashion. Bifen stopped it. Now, I still have to reseed to get it rolling again. 


Thanks to Mark for his help with this. 

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3 minutes ago, joeywa said:

Get the Bifen. It works. Also, in my case, I had an infestation of Crane Flies eating my lawn in a similar fashion. Bifen stopped it. Now, I still have to reseed to get it rolling again. 


Thanks to Mark for his help with this. 

If you can find it. I work for a Farm & Ranch supply co and we sold out of Bifen a while back. The manufacturer is out as well.

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53 minutes ago, Baron said:

If you can find it. I work for a Farm & Ranch supply co and we sold out of Bifen a while back. The manufacturer is out as well.

Still readily available in DFW.

Ewing Irrigation is a good source. Their stuff is reasonably priced.

SiteOne (formerly John Deere) also carries it and other insecticides.

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3 hours ago, wadster said:

Thanks so much for the post. Anyway I can get my email on a newsletter if you publish it?

The recruiting newsletter or the landscape one? he he

I'll make sure you get this column each month.

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48 minutes ago, CoachEmUp64 said:

Question about borers... Is there any treatment I can use on my tree to save it? Or if I'm already seeing dead limbs and no new growth is it too late?

I would feel better if an arborist looked at it. It could be bull weevils and if so, they'd die off in fall and no treatment would be needed. But if they are borers, you really need an arborist.

Need a hook up?

Don't be alarmed by the "no new growth" thing. It won't sprout much new growth at all this time of year, even if it were perfectly healthy.


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