Chinch Bug Control Programme

December 2015

 

CHINCH BUG CONTROL PROGRAMME

Over the past two to three years we have noticed an increasing occurrence of damage caused by Chinch Bug infestations to our customer's lawns, and lawns generally throughout Bermuda.  Please see an earlier post regarding the biology of the Chinch Bug and details of the infestations. 

As noted in that post there are a number of control measures that can be taken in order to reduce or mitigate the extent of damage, all of which we as a company carry out to a greater or lesser extent on our regularly visited and maintained properties.  These include managing correct cutting heights, managing thatch build up, managing fertiliser quantity and use, regular cleaning and sterilizing of equipment to prevent cross contamination from property to property, etc.  However, despite these measures, it seems that we are unable to keep up with and control the infestations and subsequent damage.

I must say I am a little perplexed by the issue and have made some effort at research and diagnosis of the problems.  My suspicion is that we are now facing a combination of a few issues.  The 'Floretam" cultivar of St. Augustine has been in use in warmer south east U.S. areas for some time now and I am unsure when it was introduced to Bermuda.  This cultivar was introduced as it was far less susceptible to the Chinch Bug infestations than the regular St. Augustine grass.  As such it was mistakenly often call Chinch Bug resistant.  I would estimate that many of the St.Augustine lawns in Bermuda are now predominantly the 'Floretam' variety.

However I think it is a fair assumption that, over the years, the Chinch Bug has evolved some mechanism and adapted to the newer 'Floretam' variety and is able to thrive as they once did in the weaker original cultivars.  Similarly it is my suspicion that the genetics of the 'Floretam'  we have in Bermuda have weakened over the years with constant harvesting and transplanting from nursery sites and other sources to new lawns, thus it is losing its "resistance".  These two possibilities, coupled with poor management practices and recent more regular periods of drought, have bought us to the current situation.

In a concerted effort to tackle these infestations and the damage they cause and to restore our customer's lawns to the best condition, Brown and Company Ltd. will be offering a full twelve month lawn treatment programme in 2016.  It will consist of:

  • Three treatments with St.Augustine specific weed and feed in the cooler winter months (January, March and November) to tackle broad-leaf cooler season weed species which compete with the grass sward in its most dormant period and to provide vital nutrient to the grass sward to encourage strong, vigorous growth as the warmer weather comes in spring. 

            The fertiliser component is 20-0-6 (N.P.K.) with 50% of the nitrogen stored as slow release which will ensure sustained strong foliage and root growth.  The active herbicide is Atrizine (0.75%).  The product is thoroughly watered in after application with an immediate re-entry period for humans, pets and wildlife and is approved by the E.P.A  and the Bermuda Department of Environmental Protection. 

  • Four treatments with Triazicide insecticide during the warmer months (March, May, July and September) when the Chinch Bug is most active, to control the infestation throughout the Chinch Bug's various stages of development.

            The active ingredient is Gamma-cyhalothrin (0.05%).  It does not harm earthworms in the soil and as with the weed and feed, is thoroughly watered in after application with an immediate re-entry period for humans, pets and wildlife and is approved by the E.P.A and the Bermuda Department of Environmental Protection.

 

  • In late May/early June the lawns will be lightly verticut/dethatched and thoroughly raked off to remove excessive thatch build up at the beginning of the growing season.  This will open the sward to vital light and air circulation and encourage strong, vigorous growth throughout the sward and prevent excessive build up of damp, dead grass; a food source and habitat for the Chinch Bug in the warm, humid months.

 

  • After the de-thatching individual lawns can be assessed for remedial repairs.  Excessively thin patches (usually where previous infestations have been) can have additional, fresh grass plugs installed.  Similarly topdressing with sand/peat moss mix may be required to maintain the lawn's surface and to provide a light growing zone to encourage new shooting growth from the existing grass sward.

 

  • Four applications of Milorganite fertiliser will be made in alternate months to the above insecticide treatment.  Milorganite is an organic, sewage sludge based nitrogen fertiliser with a high iron content.  The nitrogen and iron are in an organic, slow release formula that will feed for up to two months.  It's an ideal fertiliser for the warmer months as it contains virtually no salts so won't burn the grass, it doesn't need to be watered in after application; it can stay in the soil until moisture comes.  Additionally as it contains 85% organic matter which promotes beneficial microbial activity to compost thatch buildup and improves the soil’s ability to grow and nurture a healthy grass sward.

            Fertilizing is a bit of a double edge sward as over fertilisation can encourage the buildup   of thatch in the grass and make the lawn a better food source for the Chinch Bug;   however a healthier grass is also better able to withstand the damage caused by a Chinch    Bug infestation.  Using an organic slow release fertiliser is the best solution to this            problem (see earlier post).

 

This comprehensive treatment plan will be monitored by our staff to ensure visits are carried out at times to maximise their effectiveness, based on weather patterns etc.  We will communicate with customers throughout the year to plan visits to minimise disruption to their own schedules. Annual treatment costs will start at about $3.00 per square yard.  Please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like us to visit you site and prepare a proposal.

... KW