Plant Stress Encourages Pest Problems
Turfgrass stressed by environmental conditions or improper care is much more vulnerable to chinch bugs than healthy grass. Pest insects prefer to go after weakened plants that are struggling and lack vigor for some reason. Researchers have found that glutathione, emitted by stressed plants, attracts and even benefits certain harmful insects. It aids their reproduction, growth, and possibly their resistance to pesticides.
While you may never figure out what is stressing your grass plants, try to consider the possibilities when chinch bugs appear. If you eliminate the underlying causes of lawn stress, the chinch bugs are less likely to return.
Causes of Stress In Turfgrasses
Some causes of grass plant stress include:
Mowing improperly: mowing too short, using dull blade.
Over-use of nitrogen fertilizer, which stimulates excessive grass foliage growth.
Use of lawn pesticides against other pests which also kill off the chinch bug’s natural predators and parasites.
A temporary spring chinch bug population explosion prior to the emergence of their natural predators.
Environmental conditions such as poor soil, drought, heat, excessive rain.
Old age, neglect or competition from weeds.
The wrong type of grass for the region or conditions in the yard.
Other Conditions That Foster Chinch Bugs
Overuse of insecticides: Chinch bug populations are normally controlled by various kinds of birds and beneficial insects in yards that have lots of kinds of plants which harbor these natural defenders. However, frequent use of broad-spectrum insecticides kills these beneficial insects along with the target pest insects. Because pest populations rebound faster than those of their natural enemies, the chinch bugs have time to reestablish themselves unmolested.
Thatch Buildup: Chinch bug infestations often occur when a lawn has a serious thatch problem. Thatch is a layer of dead roots, grass plants and other debris that accumulates on the soil surface among the grass plants. Usually fostered by compacted soil, it blocks the normal decomposition of grass clippings and access of air and water to the soil. It is an ideal breeding area for chinch bugs and other pests. Remove excessive thatch with a dethatching rake or a power dethatching machine to reduce a chinch bug infestations. For more information see the file Controlling Thatch