Monthly Archives: August 2015

Chinch Bugs 101

Lawns can make or break the overall appearance of your yard. Thick, lush, green grass can give the appearance of a healthy and luxurious lawn while stringy, thin, discolored grass gives the appearance of a lawn that is suffering from some disease or pest infestation.  One such pest that can find safe harbor in your lawn is the chinch bug.  Let’s look at the basics of this annoying lawn pest:  identification, damage and management.

Identification – Chinch bugs are about 1/6 inch long, have gray-black bodies with fine hairs, white wings, and reddish legs. The outer margin of each forewing has a small, black, triangular spot. The wings of the adult are folded flat over their backs. Chinch bug populations frequently go unnoticed because of their small size and coloration, which blends in with turfgrass and thatch. If you are having trouble identifying these pests try a trick recommended by the University of Maine Plant Division.  “A coffee can with both ends cut out can be used to detect the bug and the number present.  Force one end of the can into the soil, fill with water, then watch for chinch bugs to float to the top.”

Damage – Hairy chinch bugs prefer feeding on red fescues, perennial ryegrass, bentgrass, and Kentucky bluegrass. Chinch bug infestations frequently occur in turfgrass with thick thatch that is exposed to full sunlight during periods of hot, dry weather. Chinch bug nymphs and adults cause significant feeding damage by removing plant fluids and by injecting a toxin that causes the grass to yellow, turn reddish brown, and eventually die. Chinch bug damaged areas often coalesce into large patches of dead, brown grass.
Management– Managing these pests can take many different forms from cultural to chemical.  Cultural management techniques may include monitoring the appropriate amount of moisture and fertilizer via soil tests and rain gauges. Removing excess thatch and aeration techniques keep a lawn healthy are free of pests.  In addition, improve soil conditions by top-dressing with organic matter, such as compost or well-aged animal manure.Encourage or purchase commercially available beneficial bugs such as ladybugs and lacewings,which  will feed on a large numbers of these pests. If these methods do not stop your infestation you may need to consult a professional lawn care company such as Pro-Tech to treat your lawn and eradicate the problem.

Spider Mites

According to Just Growers, Spider Mites  “are one of the most feared and loathed enemies of all indoor gardeners.”  This feisty garden pest can quickly decimate a greenhouse in a matter of a few short weeks. These small mites suck the juices from plants until the leaves fall off and the plants die. What can growers do to prevent and treat for these pests?  Let’s examine some spider mite facts, prevention and treatment plans.

Symptoms of Spider Mite infestation – Spider mites are common plant pests. Symptoms of injury include flecking, discoloration (bronzing) and scorching of leaves. Injury can lead to leaf loss and even plant death. According to the Agriculture Department of the University of Colorado, injury to a plant is caused as the mites feed, bruising the cells with their small, whip like mouthparts and ingesting the sap. Damaged areas typically appear marked with many small, light flecks, giving the plant a somewhat speckled appearance. Look not only for the flecking and change in color but also webbing.  Many spider mites produce webbing, particularly when they occur in high populations.

Prevention – Spider Mites have natural enemies such as small lady beetles, predatory mites, minute pirate bugs, big-eyed bugs and predatory thrips. Unfortunately insecticides that are overused can kill off these natural predators which allows them to flourish without control.  Try to only use insecticides when necessary to keep these natural predators alive to balance the ecosystem.  Proper irrigation and moisture management can be important cultural controls for spider mites as well.

Treatment – Chemical control of spider mites generally involves pesticides that are specifically developed for spider mite control (miticides or acaricides). Discuss the type and amount of chemical control with a professional lawn company since the choice of product you use also depends on where your plants are in terms of their lifecycle. One product that is good for vegetative plants may not be advisable to use if your plants are heavily flowering.

Lawn Fungus

For many people their lawn is their pride and joy.  It is what they work on from the beginning of the spring season to the very first flakes of winter.  What then, do you do, if disease has taken over part, or worse yet, all of your lawn? There is nothing more frustrating than watching a well manicured lawn fall victim to some kind of grass fungus. Lawn fungus disease can make a lawn look unsightly with patches of brown.  Let’s look at symptoms, treatment and prevention of grass fungus to help you maintain that beautiful lawn you worked so hard to nurture.

While there are several types of fungus that can afflict a lawn, the most common are Leaf Spot, Melting Out and Necrotic Ring Spot.  Once you know what type of fungus you have, eliminating it will be easier.

Types and Identification-

  • Leaf Spot – This type of fungus is identified by the purple and brown spots that appear on the grass blades. If left untreated, it can travel down the blade of grass and cause the roots to rot. This will result in a thin looking lawn. Common treatment methods include good care techniques for your grass.  For example water the grass only in the morning so it has all day to dry out instead of nighttime that allows moisture to fester in the grass stem and roots. Fungicide and proper fertilizer also help prevent fungus from forming.
  • Melting Out – These brown spots quickly spread to the crown and cause round dead, thatch spots in the lawn. The most common treatment is to use fungicide and dethatch the affected area.
  • Necrotic Ring Spot – This fungus is most common in the spring and fall and causes reddish-brown rings in the grass. Common treatment includes vigorous dethatching and lowering the amount of nitrogen fertilizer.

Prevention – One of the best ways to deal with fungus is to prevent it from taking hold in the first place. Some prevention methods include:

  • Aerate – Annually aerate the lawn to make sure oxygen and nutrients are properly getting to the root system.
  • Fertilize – Both over and under fertilizing  can promote some fungal diseases. Choose organic, slow-release fertilizers for your lawn, and apply them exactly as instructed.
  • Soil Test – Annually check the nutrient deficiencies that can lead to stressed lawns and disease.
  • Mowing practices – Follow good mowing practices by keeping the blade sharp and clean.  Mow only one third of the height each mowing session.
  • Watering – Water your lawn in the early morning and and use a rain gauge to keep track of how much water your grass is really getting so that you are not overwatering or underwatering.
  • Dethatch – Remove thick buildups of thatch in your lawn to allow the soil to breathe.

Bites and Stings

Unless you live in a bubble, you probably have gotten a bug bite or bee sting at some point in your life.  The problem is that unless the little pest sticks around it is hard to find out what it was, appropriate treatment and possible reactions.  Let’s examine the different types of biting bugs and what the bite may look like as well as any special treatment methods.

  • Tick Bites – Ticks can carry many diseases including Lyme Disease and Relapsing Fever so identifying and treating these bites becomes critically important. Once a tick has transferred from leaves or brush onto a person’s body they tend to attach to a warm, moist area such as the groin or armpits.  The first sign of infection is often a circular skin rash many times a telltale bullseye gives the clue that it was a tick.  Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with antibiotics.
  • Lice – Just hearing the word lice may make your head itch. The itching and finding these little white bugs or their eggs in your hair will be alarming.  Treatment to kill lice and their eggs (called nits), include lotions, creams, or shampoos from the drug store or prescribed by your doctor which are designed specifically for lice.
  • Fleas – Fleas are small, wingless, agile insects that live off the blood of their host — and they don’t just bite pets. They dine on people, too. Multiple small, red bites over an infected area are a first symptom of this itchy bite.  WebMD suggests the best solution is to get rid of fleas on pets and in your home. Keep pets out of your bed and be sure to vacuum rugs daily. Spray insecticides tend to be not terribly effective at eliminating a problem. Contact Pest-End or Pro-Tech professionals to discuss flea control programs.
  • Bee stings – Most bee stings include a welt surrounding a single puncture hole.  Oral antihistamines are usually enough treatment if you are not allergic to the sting.  Ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be used for pain relief.
  • Bed Bugs – These tiny insects live in the sheets and mattresses of your bed. They are often found in hotels, shelters, and apartment complexes — and can hitch a ride into your home aboard luggage, pets, and boxes. Patchy red bites usually begin itching after a night of being eaten by these little pests. Oral antihistamines and creams can help with the itch.  If the bites are scratched too much, they may get infected and need a doctor’s care.

Tick-borne Relapsing Fever

Summer is a time of “all things outdoors” – hiking, biking, picnics and gardening in the yard to name just a few favorite outdoor activities.  Unfortunately, summer is also a time of mosquitoes, ticks and bees.  Most people living on the North Shore of Massachusetts are well aware of the dangers of EEE, West Nile disease, and Lyme disease. But have you heard of Tick-borne relapsing fever?  While this specific disease usually affects states in the western part of the country, it is not unheard of that easterners have contracted this particularly horrible disease mainly through travel.  Let’s look at the symptoms, types and treatments for Tick-borne Relapsing Fever.

Symptoms– Relapsing fever, as its name implies, is an illness characterized primarily by recurrent episodes of fever, often accompanied by fatigue and malaise. Some other symptoms of TBRF may include:

  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Sweats
  • Muscle or joint aches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stiff neck
  • Bleeding
  • Coma

Types of Relapsing fever – There are two major types of relapsing fever including tick borne and louse borne relapsing fever.

  • Tick-borne relapsing fever (TBRF) is transmitted by the Ornithodoros tick. It occurs in Africa, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Asia, and certain areas in the western United States and Canada. The bacterial species associated with TBRF are Borrelia duttoni, Borrelia hermsii, and Borrelia parkerii.
  • Louse-borne relapsing fever (LBRF) is transmitted by body lice. It is most common in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America. The bacterial species associated with LBRF is Borrelia recurrentis. This type is more common in poor nations and areas where rodents are infesting living areas.

Treatment – See your doctor right away if you think you have TBRF or any tick borne disease. He or she can test your blood for TBRF. Your doctor will most likely treat the disease with antibiotics.  Due to the seriousness and complications associated with this disease it is important to seek immediate medical help.  The death rate varies according to the severity but complications could include:

  • Drooping of the face
  • Coma
  • Liver problems
  • Inflammation of the thin tissue that surrounds the brain and spinal cord
  • Inflammation of the heart muscle, which may lead to irregular heart rate
  • Pneumonia
  • Seizures
  • Stupor
  • Shock related to taking antibiotics (Jarisch-Herxheimer’s reaction, in which the rapid death of very large numbers of Borreliabacteria causes shock)
  • Weakness
  • Widespread bleeding