Back to articles
  • How to Control Chinch Bugs in St. Augustine Sod

    Getting rid of the chinch is a cinch with these easy tips.

Has your Scotts® ProVista™ St. Augustine sod gone from looking lush to, well, you’re not sure what’s going on? There’s a good chance the problem could be chinch bugs. An infestation of these troublesome insects can move across an entire lawn in several days, leaving patches or entire sections of brown and dead grass in their wake. Although chinch bugs feed on many types of grasses, St. Augustine sod is one of their favorites.

So, what can you do? First, let’s make sure you’re actually dealing with chinch bugs rather than another issue, then we’ll talk about how to treat, manage, and prevent chinch bugs in St. Augustine grass.

How to Identify Chinch Bugs

Adult chinch bugs are about ⅕ of an inch long, and black with white wings folded over their backs. Nymphs are yellow when they hatch, and then turn red with a light-colored band across their abdomens. They develop into adults in 4 to 6 weeks, and there can be 2 to 4 generations per year, so you definitely want to stay on top of these pests.

But, hang on—there is a bug that is often mistaken as a chinch bug, called (somewhat confusingly) a false chinch bug. While they can also wreak havoc in the landscape, false chinch bugs tend to become a problem during a wet, cool spring rather than hot, dry summers like their more simply named counterparts. The strategy for treating them is the same, but because false chinches are even smaller in size and lighter in color, clearing up this confusion can help you control both of these pests with confidence.

How to Know if You’re Dealing with Chinch Bugs

Symptoms that indicate chinch bugs are making a home in your St. Augustine sod can be seen from April through October. The grass wilts, turns yellowish brown, dries out, and dies in sunny areas along your sidewalk or driveway. What’s more, it doesn’t green up after it’s been watered, as it would if drought were behind those brown spots.

Once you’re reasonably sure you’re dealing with chinch bugs, here’s how to test if they’re are in your sod:

1. Take a metal can (a coffee can is ideal) and remove both ends.

2. Insert the can 3” deep in an area of your sod.

3. Using your garden hose, fill the can ¾ full with water, and keep adding water to maintain this level for a solid 10 minutes (don’t let the water drain out).

4. While you’re doing this, use a large spoon or hand trowel to stir the water and agitate the grass that’s down below.

5. Any existing chinch bugs will float to the surface.

How to Prevent Chinch Bug Damage

If you’re wondering what causes chinch bugs to multiply and cause damage, and—more importantly—what you can do to prevent them, read on. It’s important to note that stressed plants, including sod, are much more susceptible to any kind of pest or disease problem. Extreme heat and drought issues, for example, are like an open invitation for chinch bugs to move in and make themselves at home.

Here’s what you can do to prevent chinch bugs from visiting in the first place:

  • Put your sod on a feeding program. Feeding sod at the right time with the right food helps it grow strong, and better protect itself from insect damage. If you’re not quite sure what product to use or when to apply it, no worries—we have it figured out for you! The Scotts® Program matches your location and sod type with the products you need and delivers those products to you at the exact time you need them. It’s a personalized subscription that takes all the anxiety out of trying to keep your St. Augustine sod looking fine.
  • Water properly. Irrigate or water your sod as soon as you see any of the grass blades starting to wilt. Remember, watering earlier in the morning is best. At that time of day, there’s less evaporation, so water gets to the roots of your sod rather than disappearing before it does any good. St. Augustine sod will need 1½ inches of H20 per week. Ideally, you’d water twice a week, giving the grass a good soak. “Deeply and infrequently” is the mantra to keep in mind.
  • Mow regularly. Consistent mowing keeps your sod at the recommended height, while infrequent mowing can lead to more than ⅓ of your sod’s height being removed in one clip. That, in turn, can weaken and damage your sod’s blades. Scotts® ProVista™ sod doesn’t require the more frequent mowing of other sod types, but you’ll still want to make sure you’re observing when it’s time to give it a haircut.

How to Treat Chinch Bugs in St. Augustine Sod

Now you know how to take care of your sod to give it the best chance to ward off chinch bug infestations on its own. If they’ve already managed to make themselves at home, though, there are products you can use to both kill chinch bugs and prevent them from coming back. For Scotts® ProVista™ St. Augustine sod, a twice yearly (spring and fall) application of Scotts® Turf Builder® Southern Triple Action should do the trick. This product not only feeds and strengthens your lawn, but it also prevents and kills chinch bugs, fire ants, and a number of weeds like clover and dollarweed. It’s a 3-in-1 powerhouse that is ideal for Southern sod like yours!

If you tend to get busy and forget some of these regular, yet critical, sod care tasks, simply download the My Lawn app—it’s a simple but powerful tool that reminds you when to feed, seed, and water your sod. We want to simplify your maintenance schedule so that problems like chinch bugs, weeds, and sod diseases are a thing of the past.

With these tips and tools you should be all set for a bug-free season out on your lawn. This way, you can turn your attention back to things that are much more enjoyable, like planning your next cookout.

Photo by Dreamstime/Mauro Rodrigues

Related articles