How to Maintain St. Augustine Grass & Chinch Bugs

Overview

Chinch bugs are the most common insect pest that plagues St. Augustine grass. Chinch bugs most frequently appear in adult form in the spring or summer. They are slender bugs that are 1/10 to 1/5 inch long. Dark in color, they have white wings and a triangle marking in the center of their backs. Chinch bugs eat the bottoms of the tender shoots at the base of St. Augustine stems. Because their saliva is toxic to grass, these bugs cause more damage than most other bugs. Prevent chinch bug problem in St. Augustine grass by practicing proper lawn maintenance.

Step 1

Identify whether chinch bugs are a problem on your St. Augustine lawn. Because chinch bug infestations look similar to fungal lawn problems and drought, the best way to identify a chinch bug problem is to look for the bugs themselves.

Step 2

Mow to the proper height to prevent lawn thatch buildup. St. Augustine lawns are best mowed to a height of about 3 inches on a weekly basis. Cutting St. Augustine shorter than recommended creates conditions that harbor thatch. Thatch is a layer of dead grass and other organic material that has become entangled in the roots of the lawn. Thatch buildup provides a protective layer for the chinch bugs that eat at the tender stems of St. Augustine grass.

Step 3

Hire a professional mower to perform aeration or vertical mowing on the lawn. Once thatch has built up, it needs to be removed to get rid of chinch bugs. Aeration creates a series of holes that break up thatch and allow grass roots to breathe. Vertical mowing is a more thorough procedure that hash-cuts a grass patch, disconnecting the tangles that promote thatch buildup.

Tips and Warnings

  • Aerating your own lawn can be a bad idea if you have any cables buried in or near your lawn. Always check for buried cables before commencing lawn aeration. One disadvantage to vertical mowing is that it rears up the lawn, rendering it something of an eyesore until the grass comes back in in about a week. Aeration also leaves a series of holes that disappear as grass grows back in.

Things You'll Need

  • Adjustable-height mower
  • Lawn aeration machine or hired lawn care professional

References

  • Texas A&M Agriculture: Chinch Bugs in St. Augustine Lawns
  • North Carolina State University: Southern Chinch Bug
  • University of Florida: Southern Chinch Bug Management on St. Augustinegrass
  • Virginia Cooperative Extension: Aerating Your Lawn
Keywords: lawn thatch buildup, vertical mowing, lawn aeration safety, St. Augustine problems

About this Author

Terry Morgan is a freelancer who has been writing since 1992. Morgan has been published at Gardenguides.com, Travels.com and eHow, frequenting topics like technology, computer repair, gardening and music. Morgan holds an Associate of Arts with a journalism focus from Moorpark College and a Bachelor of Arts in music and technology from California State University San Marcos.