Monday, September 13, 2021

'The Nasty Rascal, The Chinch Bug'

Horticulture Hotline 09/13/21

By Bill Lamson-Scribner


‘The Nasty Rascal, The Chinch Bug’ is about impossible to see (about the size of fine ground pepper), the damage can be confused between fungi, dry areas, and just dead areas, and although they are easy to kill once identified, the chinch bug keeps coming back. Chinch bugs preferred diet is St. Augustine grass (AKA Charleston Grass); however, it will attack zoysia, Bermuda, and centipede. As St. Augustine grass is getting replaced by zoysia, this switch in diet makes a lot of sense.


In the old days (Dursban, Diazinon), you could put out a product in May and pretty much control chinch bugs for the season. Now depending on the product, if you get two to three weeks control you are lucky. Most of the products work on the adults and do not affect the eggs that are waiting to hatch.


 There are a lot of cases of resistance to certain control products in Florida, so be sure to rotate chemical families of your products (not just product names). Since some of our sod comes up from Florida, we have also experienced these resistant chinch bugs as well.


‘The Nasty Rascal, The Chinch Bug’ got this designation from attacking family’s lawns during the summer while families were taking their summer vacation. The fact that this very small insect and a lot of its buddies can wipe out a beautiful yard in a very short period of time is ruthless. Hard to control weeds like bermudagrass and Virginia button weed always seem to move in on the weaken areas.


There is a fungus in the soil that controls chinch bugs. When the soil dries out the fungus in the soil that keeps chinch bugs in check dies. When the fungus dies, the chinch bugs go crazy. The reason you see chinch bugs along the road, driveway, sidewalks or in the sunniest part of the yard is because that is where the fungus dies out first. Chinch bugs rarely attack grass in the shade (notice attached pictures) because the fungus keeps them in check. With about 50 people moving to the Lowcountry a day, I wanted to make people aware of ‘The Nasty Rascal, The Chinch Bug’.


Since chinch bugs attack the grass along the road, driveway, and sidewalks, when people treat for them, they often throw product on hard impermeable surfaces (roads, driveways, and sidewalks). Always be sure to sweep or blow any particles back into the grass to avoid any unwanted runoff into storm water drains or marshes and waterways. This particular runoff situation would be another reason to refer to this pest as ‘The Nasty Rascal, The Chinch Bug’!


If you have active chinch bugs, be sure to use a product that ‘controls’ them not ’suppresses’ them. Sevin is a good choice with the resistance issues.


Always read, understand and follow product label. The product label is a Federal Law.


Monday, September 6, 2021

Tree Webbing


Horticulture Hotline 09/06/21

  Bill Lamson-Scribner


The Fall brings many webs to our Lowcountry trees. The webs are for protection against birds and other insects. Some are bad for the tree; some are good for the tree and some are just Halloween decorations!


The web that is very close to the trunk and main branches, like a white stocking pulled tightly against the bark, are tree cattle.  Tree cattle or bark lice are beneficial insects that clean organic matter out of the crevices of the bark of the tree.  They do no harm.  If you are a “web-a-phobic” you can spray the webbing off with a high pressure hose; however, you will be ridding your tree of a free maid service. 


The web that is out at the tips of the branches engulfing the foliage, are Fall Webworms.  The worms should be visible as well as half eaten foliage.  Webworms tend to favor pecan, river birch, walnut, hickory, persimmon, sweet gum, fruit trees and some maples.  In the forest, natural predators do a good job of keeping this pest in check.  In your landscape consider the size and age of the tree before treating. We usually only recommend treating in very severe cases because many of the trees that get attacked are going to lose their leaves soon enough anyway in the fall.


Even though they are called Fall Webworms, they can appear here as early as June or July. They over winter in the pupal stage in bark crevices and in leaf litter. Some people will try to control this stage with Lime/Sulfur mix and horticultural oil before budbreak. Not too easy for many homeowners with a large pecan tree. Homeowners can treat around the base of the tree and up the tree with Caterpillar Killer, Bifenthrin, Acephate, Sevin or Lambda- Cyhalothrin. Homeowners can also call in a professional.


When the leaves appear on the tree, the adult moth emerges from the pupal stage and lays eggs on the underside of the new leaves. The eggs hatch and here comes the hungry caterpillar – eating the leaves and spinning a web for protection against birds and predatory insects. Since a moth that flies lay the eggs, a product like Tangle Trap or Tree Tanglefoot are not necessary for this caterpillar.


If your tree is young and you can easily spray it, use Bt (a bacteria that affects certain insects – biological warfare!). Organic products containing Bt are; Caterpillar Killer and Dipel. The webworms devour the foliage on trees.  The foliage is what the tree uses to collect sunlight and to make food for itself.  The repeated defoliation of a tree can permanently injure the tree.  Spray the leaves next to the nest and the nest itself with Bt, and when the webworms eat the leaves, the bacteria will make them sick. It is best to catch the worms while they are young when using Bt. If you do not want to spray, you can open up the webs with a stick, stream of water or pole saw and let the birds and other predatory insects have a feast.


Now is a good time for planning and planting.  While planning your new landscape additions this fall, don’t forget the amendments to your soil.  Amendments will help to ensure a healthier plant next summer when the heat is on by growing a stronger root system throughout the Fall and Winter.  Soil test now for your 2022 program and any new areas that you are adding this Fall.  Any of the Back To Nature products (Cotton Burr Compost, Natures Blend, Composted Cow or Chicken Manure) will greatly improve your soil and your plants health.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Goodbye Summer

Horticulture Hotline

  Bill Lamson-Scribner 08/30/21


Treat for mosquitoes in your yard! With the amount of rain and high tides we have had, try some Cyonara and kill the mosquito. Some products repel mosquitoes, we want to kill them. Slow them down with a growth regulator also. Scout around your yard for potential breeding sights. It is amazing how many places that collect water and a mosquito can lay an egg. Old tarps, tarps on boats, saucers under flower pots, a dent in a trash can lid, old fountain, bird bath, tires, refrigerators, old cars, magnolia leaves and even half - filled rain gauges all provide enough water to help mosquitoes breed. If you do not have time to do scout your yard, hire a professional, and they will help make your yard safe. World-wide mosquitoes are the number one killer of humans.


We are in the heart of hurricane season. Get a professional to inspect your trees. Watch out for what is known in the industry as “widow makers” – those dead limbs hanging from a tree. It is the perfect time to feed trees and shrubs also.


Large Patch fungus is about to raise its ugly head again in the Lowcountry. The night time temperatures are going to be in the high 60’s to low 70’s. You should apply fungicides before you get the disease and prevent the disease. The daylight hours are decreasing, making the grass more susceptible to the disease. Water only as needed and apply Strobe or T-Methyl fungicide. 


If you have any bushes or trees that need to be transplanted, you can begin to root prune them.  Ideally if you transplant a tree you would have a ball that is 12 inches for each inch in diameter of the tree (i.e. 3 inch tree would be 18 inches on either side of the tree).  Take a shovel and dig straight down without prying and just sever the roots of the tree.  Depending on the size of the tree, whether it was planted or a volunteer seedling, how long it has been in the ground, and whether it is in a group of other plants, will dictate how big of a root ball you will be able to dig. Add some SeaHume and Superthrive to the area to encourage new roots.  Root prune now and for the next few months for transplanting in November-January.


The change in weather will also bring on the winter annual weeds.  Hopefully by now, you have put out preemergents in your lawn as well as your beds. If you have had Florida Betony in the past, consider using a preemergent that contains Dimension. I have already seen Florida Betony emerging so act quickly if it is a weed you fight. Many of our customers have noticed a decrease in Florida Betony in lawns that they have used Dimension in late August and again in October. Over twenty years ago, I put out some test plots for Dow AgroSciences, and I saw about an 85% reduction in Florida Betony the first year! Dow AgroSciences did not add Florida Betony to the label because of the costs of dealing with the EPA; however, I say, “try it you‘ll like it!”


Watch out for mole crickets, fall army worms and sod web worms in your turf.  Mole crickets have just

developed their wings and are beginning their fall flights, which means they will be up near the surface tunneling (damaging) your grass. I have had several calls about severe mole cricket damage and observed major damage.  Sod web worms and fall army worms can eat a huge amount of grass in a short period of time.  Look for moths as you walk around your lawn in the evening.  These moths will come up from the ground, fly erratically for a few feet, then land almost like a quail.  Treat with Lebanon Insect Control or Cyonara and you will take care of both of these guys as well as fire ants and many other insects. 


Always read, follow and understand the product label before applying any products.