Originally created 06/02/00

Check for early signs of chinch-bug infestation



The drought is on, and the heat is rising.

And the chinch bugs are coming.

I had to look hard, but I found some in my lawn about 10 days ago.

Like last year, chinch-bug damage is showing up early because we had a mild winter. If your St. Augustine grass is showing signs of yellowing and looks like it needs water, you'd better check it out.

The best way to look for chinch bugs is to cut the bottom out of a large coffee can, work it an inch or so into the ground in a suspected area, then fill it up with water. In a couple of minutes, the chinch bugs will float to the top.

The bugs are black with white markings and about 1/6 of an inch long. Young nymphs are half the size of a pinhead, red to orange in color, with a white band across the back. The nymphs do more damage than the adults.

A chinch bug inserts a slender beak into the grass, injects a toxin and extracts the plant juices.

They're usually found feeding in open, sunny areas. They seldom bother grass that's mostly in shade. I've seen chinch bugs eating in sunny areas and not bother shady areas only a couple of feet away.

Vegetable gardens

Like everything else in the landscape, the vegetable garden is under stress. All plant processes, use and movement of growth materials, even structure fail without water. (Plants wilt because water holds them up.) Water also is the plant's main cooling mechanism.

Heat causes stress in addition to water loss. In high heat, for instance, cucumbers may have a bitter taste. Squash can get spongy areas and is not as tasty. This is caused by extreme water loss and heat stress, which keeps the plant from using water properly.

Sid Mullis is director of the University of Georgia Extension Service office for Richmond County. Call him at 821-2349, or send e-mail to smullis@uga.edu. Or visit www.griffin.peachnet.edu/ga/columbia.