An integrated approach to insect management in turfgrass: hairy chinch bug
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An Integrated Approach to Insect Management in Turfgrass:
Richard J. Buckley, Coordinator, Plant Diagnostic Laboratory; Albrecht M. Koppenhöfer, Ph.D., Extension Specialist,Turfgrass Entomology; and Sabrina Tirpak, Senior Lab Technician, Plant Diagnostic Laboratory
Fig. 1. Developmental stages of the hairy chinch bug (courtesy of D. Shetlar)
Introduction: The hairy chinch bug, Blissus
scattered patches, their feeding results in local-
leucopterus hirtus Montandon, is one of the most
ized turfgrass injury. The spots often coalesce
destructive insect pests of New Jersey turfgrass.
into large areas of thinning, dead, or dying turf.
Hairy chinch bugs (HCB) are found in all of theNortheastern states, west to Minnesota, and south
Moisture or heat stressed turf with thick thatch is
to Virginia. They are also troublesome in Canada
most susceptible to HCB injury. HCB injury
from Ontario to the Atlantic Coast. These surface
closely resembles drought injury or sunscald and
feeding insects attack a wide range of grasses
is often mistaken as such during the summer
including Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescues, pe-
when grass is in a dormant state. The first
rennial ryegrass, bentgrass, and zoysia.
indication of injury is often when the grass fails torecover after irrigation or late summer rains. HCB
Symptoms of infestation: Hairy chinch bugs
seem to prefer open sunny lawns with a high
have piercing-sucking mouthparts, which they
percentage of perennial ryegrass and/or fine fes-
use to suck sap from and inject toxins into the
crowns and stems of grasses. This type of feedingdisrupts the water-conducting system of the
Insect Description (Fig. 1): HCB adults are black
grass, causing the grass to wilt, turn yellow, then
with shiny white wings. There are long-winged
brown and die. Because HCB generally occur in
and short-winged adults. The ratio of these two
forms varies considerably among populations.
emerge all life stages, mixed from the first and
The shiny-white wings are folded flat over the
second generation, can be found at the same time.
body so that the tips overlap in the long-winged
The second-generation nymphs mature by Sep-
adults. Each wing has a distinctive, triangular-
shaped black marking in the middle of the outeredge. From these marking extend black lines in
Monitoring: HCB are fairly easy to control if
an “X”-shaped pattern across both wings. HCB
infestations are detected early. Lawns with a
adults are slightly more than 3/64" (1 mm) wide
history of HCB should be monitored, especially
after warm dry springs. Larger nymphs and adultHCB can be detected by parting the grass at the
interface of healthy and damaged turf and in-
growth stages. Their length increases from 1/32"
specting the lower stems and thatch.
(0.9 mm) in the first stage to around 1/8" (3 mm)in the fifth stage. Young nymphs are orange with
The best sampling method for HCB is floata-
a characteristic white stripe across their backs.
tion. A metal cylinder made from a can (e.g.,
Intermediate stages darken to an orange/brown
large coffee can) by cutting off both ends is
and the final stage is black. Wingpads become
pushed through the thatch of the area to be
apparent by the third stage. New HCB eggs are
inspected and filled with water to the brim.
elongate, oval shaped, and white. They darken as
Keep the water level above the grass foliage.
they age to a reddish color just before hatching.
Any HCB present will float to the surfacewithin a few minutes. Seasonal History and Habits: In New Jersey the HCB has two generations each year. Adults
Alternatively, take a small piece of sod using a
overwinter in infested turf areas that still have
golf course cup cutter or spade and place it in a
enough undamaged grass to provide cover. They
bucket of water to float up HCB. Adjust the
are also found during winter in thatch, plant debris,
number of HCB counted in the sample to 1 ft2. A
and in or on other objects that border turf areas.
golf course cup cutter is 0.1 ft2, a square cut withthe blade of a spade is 0.25 ft2. The potential for
The overwintering adults become active and leave
injury is greatest when the population reaches 25
their hibernation sites when the temperature
reaches 45°F (7°C). The HCB can fly, but migratesmainly by walking. Individuals feed and mate
Degree-day models can be used to focus attention
immediately. Females begin to lay eggs after
to developing populations. Using a 50°F base
about 2 weeks. Peak egg-laying occurs from early
temperature, egg laying in spring starts at 198 to
May through early June, about the time when
252 degree-days and the first eggs hatch at 522 to
white clover is in early bloom. Females will lay
about 170 eggs and live about 100 days. Cultural control: The first step in a HCB
Egg hatch occurs after several weeks in early
management program is plant resistance. Sev-
spring and as few as 7 days in summer. The first
eral turfgrass varieties, primarily perennial
generation brood develops through the five
ryegrasses and fescues that are infected with
nymphal stages in 4 to 6 weeks between May and
Neotyphodium endophytes, are resistant to
mid-July. Emergence of the first-generation
HCB. Certain Kentucky bluegrass cultivars
adults occurs around the time when sumac is in
have also been reported to tolerate feeding in-
These adults lay eggs from mid-July through late
Thatch reduction, proper fertilization, and regu-
August. Once the second generation begins to
lar irrigation can minimize HCB damage. Natural mortality: HCB nymphs drown in great
early spring applications against overwintered
numbers during spring rains. Furthermore, during
females are often wasted because the pest may
certain years winter mortality is very high due to
not reach damaging levels. Restrict preventive
desiccation. Generally, low humidity at low tem-
applications to potential hot spots as determined
peratures and high humidity at high temperatures
contribute to the decline of HCB populations.
Either liquid or granular applications can be
Natural enemies: After cool wet springs and
effective. For liquids, unless sufficient spray
during warm moist summers, the insect patho-
volume has been used, a light irrigation (1/8" = 3
genic fungus Beauveria bassiana can nearly
mm) done before the spray dries will help move
wipe out HCB populations. After killing the
the insecticide into the thatch. If thatch and soil
insect, the fungus covers the body with white
surface are very dry, watering the day before
mycelium and spores. Beware that fungicide
application helps the spray to move into the
applications will reduce this natural enemy of
thatch. Granular applications should be made to
HCB. Furthermore, at least eight species of
dry foliage and followed by light (1/8") irrigation.
arthropods in the turfgrass fauna feed on the HCB
The material can also be applied in a gentle rain
including a predatory mite, big-eyed bugs, and
or just before a predicted rainfall. Be sure to rotate
ground beetles. It is always prudent to assess the
materials of different chemical classes to reduce
population of natural enemies in the ecosytem
the chance for resistance development.
To aid in locating control products, active ingre-dients listed below are followed by trade names inparentheses. Be aware that the active ingredientsin these products may change. When purchasingcontrol products, always check the label for theactive ingredient. Always read instructions oninsecticide labels very carefully.
Effective insecticides for HCB control include theorganophosphates acephate (Orthene®, Ad-dress®), diazinon (Diazinon®; not for golfcourses, sod farms, turf areas > 1 A), chlorpyrifos(Dursban®; not for residential turf or where chil-dren may be exposed), the carbamate carbaryl(Sevin®), the pyrethroids bifenthrin (Talstar®,
Fig. 2. Adult HCB (left), adult big-eyed bug (right) (From
Ortho® Lawn Insect Killer Granules), cyfluthrin
(Tempo®), deltamethrin (Deltagard®), lambda-cyhalothrin (Battle®, Scimitar®), and permethrin
Chemical Control: The commonly accepted
(Astro®). Chlorpyrifos, deltamethrin, and lamba-
period for HCB control is from June to August
cyhalothrin are presently only available for com-
when peak populations are active. Preventive
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