Ground Moving with Tiny Migrating Insects

Whenever I give my ‘General Insect Pest’ presentations I include a couple of photos of chinch bugs and their nymphs.  Usually I say something like “These are not pests every year in Indiana but can become troublesome in years when we have a drought.”

Guess what?  That is now! The dry conditions we are experiencing in much of the state are perfect for chinch bugs and false chinch bugs to thrive and we are beginning to receive reports of chinch bugs by the gazillions.  Some reports are that the ground appears to be moving due to the migration of these insects.
These bugs belong to a family of true bugs known as the seed bugs (Lygaeidae).  Adults chinch bugs are small (about 1/8 inch in length), narrow, and are gray-brown (if they are false chinch bugs), or black and silver (if they are true chinch bugs). They deposit eggs in cracks in the soil or on various plants in late winter or early spring. Small reddish-brown nymphs (immatures) feed, go through a series of molts, and reach the adult stage in approximately three weeks. Several generations may be produced per year, especially when dry conditions abound.  

False chinch bug nymphs with gray brown mottling and dark developing wing pads. Adult (bottom right) with silvery grey wings (Photo credit Surendra Dara)

True chinch bug nymphs in thatch with reddish body separated by distinct white band (Photo credit John Obermeyer)
Chinch bugs have piercing-sucking mouthparts and feed by removing fluids from their host plants. Some sources report the possibility of the injection of a toxin during the feeding process. Damage symptoms are usually restricted to a general wilting of the plant and heavy feeding may cause leaves to turn brown and die.
During droughty years large populations develop primarily on weeds especially in the mustard family and on clump grasses in rangelands, waste areas, and other uncultivated land. As the vegetation in these areas begins to dry up, the bugs migrate in large numbers to other more succulent food sources.
Agronomic crops, such as corn, soybeans and alfalfa, may be damaged by the feeding of chinch bugs.  Ornamental plants, including turfgrass can also become damaged. Damage is most likely to occur in fields, lawns or golf courses that are adjacent to the uncultivated areas the bugs are migrating from. Populations are extremely high along the migration "front" and damage may occur until the bugs disperse over a wider area.
Sometimes chinch bugs get into homes that are in their path of migration. Rest assured that they are a nuisance only and that they will not damage the structure of the building and are harmless to people and pets.  Excluding them by sealing up cracks, broken windows etc. will be helpful.
Chinch bugs should only be controlled if they are causing damage.  Effective chemical control generally requires that the bugs be contacted with the insecticide. Residual control is not likely during migration periods as bugs may not stay in treated areas for a sufficient period of time to accumulate lethal doses of the pesticide and any insects that are killed are merely replaced by other migrants.

Timothy J.  Gibb
Purdue University Insect Diagnostician

Read More

New! Purdue Extension Website with Drought Information

A new website has been created to help homeowners and professionals find useful information concerning how to cope with drought. This page includes resources about crops, turf, landscapes and more. Visit for more information.

Read More

My Lawn is Brown and Crunchy… Is it Dead? What do I do now?

The first day of summer/longest day of the year for 2012 has come and gone and just this past week a new National Drought Monitor Map was published (see below).  The city of West Lafayette in Tippecanoe County has now fallen into the “Severe Drought” category. In fact 36% of Indiana is now in severe drought, while > 5% (the southwestern counties) are now in “extreme drought”.

Frankly, if you have been paying attention to landscape conditions, it doesn’t take an expert to declare it a severe drought out there. The overall appearance of unirrigated lawns and most turf areas is straw brown and dormant with a “crunchy” leaf canopy. Many of these areas have been that way for several weeks now.
This newer lawn is very "dormant", the small green areas are patches of tall fescue that are still surviving and green.
 The dry conditions combined with typical “above average” summer temperatures, > 90 F, have led to a number of people contacting us and asking… “Is my lawn dead?” The answer to this question is complicated, and honestly, it is difficult to truly tell until many of these areas fully rehydrate.  Regardless, we are clearly pushing the edge of the envelope on what many turfgrass species can tolerate. Some of our weaker cool-season lawn grasses like the ryegrasses, annual bluegrass and roughstalk bluegrass (See Images) are most likely not to recover. Other common turfgrasses like Kentucky bluegrass or the fescues are more likely to survive.  If you are fortunate to have a warm-season lawn (e.g. zoysiagrass or bermudagrass) these lawns are likely not dead.
This finer textured patch of turf above is most likely roughstalk bluegrass it will look "dead" but may actually recover, there are still some green shoots.

Relative drought tolerance and irrigation requirement rankings of turfgrass lawn species commonly grown in Indiana.

1. Relative Drought Tolerance
2. Relative Irrigation Requirement
(to look their best)
Turfgrass Lawn Species
Turf-type tall fescue
Very good
Kentucky bluegrass
Good – Very good
Medium – High
Fineleaf fescue
Perennial ryegrass
Poor - Good
Annual bluegrass
Very high
Roughstalk bluegrass
Very high
Annual ryegrass
Very high
The other issue to consider is the maturity of the turf and growing environment. Well maintained, mature lawns with a deep root system will be faring much better than recent plantings. Furthermore, turf growing in severely compacted soils or very coarse textured sandy soils may really struggle and not recover. The driving factors for survival during severe drought have to do with rooting depth and the “reservoir” of available water. Sandy soils have less reserve water than fine textured soils and will need more supplemental irrigation.

Now what???
A friend recently asked me recently what to do about their lawn during these very dry conditions. I told them, honestly we will really just need to wait and see. I told him if he has not been irrigating and the lawn is brown then the plant is likely doing it’s best to conserve moisture during this “survival mode”, protecting the crown or growing point. He said, “So I should just accept “a little bit of brown?”, I responded “accept a whole lot of brown!”

Should I water my lawn?
If you have been regularly watering your lawn you should continue, the turf has been conditioned to this practice and shutting off the water may be damaging to survival. Remember the rule of thumb for lawn irrigation is to “water deeply and infrequently”. In other words, you should not be watering lawn grasses every day but every 3 days or so.
On the other extreme, if you have not been watering your lawn it is probably not worth starting at this point. Allow the turfgrass to remain dormant. There is no guarantee that your lawn will survive these conditions of 2012, but… heavily watering at this time may actually shift the competitive edge toward some of the warm-season grassy (e.g. crabgrass, etc.) and broadleaf weeds that thrive during the summer months. Furthermore, the amount of water to help the turf recover and then continue to sustain healthy growth may be cost prohibitive. Allow the turf to remain dormant, some grasses like Kentucky bluegrass have a dormancy mechanism and regrowth may occur from underground stems/rhizomes when more favorable weather returns. If you feel like you need to do something... applying about ½ inch of water every few weeks to keep the crown alive and hydrated. This will help down the road. The turf leaves will not turn green, but this practice will increase the chance for future survival.  
Light irrigation may help this dormant Kentucky bluegrass survive

Will my lawn recover?
While many lawns might not be “dead”, one major factor that will kill drought stressed turf is when the plant is subject to intense traffic and the crown is damaged. Those areas likely will not recover from that abrasive stress of heavy foot traffic or wheel traffic. Therefore, avoid heavy use during this drought period.

What if I need to replant?
The plus side of all of this is there is a lot of time to plan for a better lawn for the future (generally mid-August is the suggested time to begin turf seeding for the cool-season turf species (e.g. ryegrasses, fescues, bluegrasses). If you lawn does severely thin or large areas do not survive this is a perfect opportunity to replant with an improved species or cultivar/variety.
This area has severely thinned and may require replanting.

One group that I am collaborating with is the Turfgrass Water Conservation Association (TWCA: The stated mission of this organization is “The main goal of the TWCA program is to combat the rising concern of our depleting water resources. To accomplish this goal, the TWCA program is designed to recognize plants and other live goods products in the lawn and garden industry that provide a clear benefit in water conservation. Products that become TWCA qualified will have successfully met a stringent set of criteria.”  In this program we are testing and learning about new varieties of various common lawn grass species that are most drought tolerant.  Several new very drought tolerant cultivars are listed on the program’s website. One characteristic of these varieties compared to prior generations are these grasses are simply are able to retain their green color for a much longer period of time even though they are drought stressed.  Additionally, I participate with another species/cultivar evaluation program, the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program (NTEP) This organization also has information regarding the relative drought tolerance of many commercially available cultivars.
If you need to replant immediately, Sodding damaged areas is certainly another option, but the availability of the aforementioned drought tolerant cultivars may be limited. Furthermore, unless it can be regularly watered, it may not survive.

What about fertilizing?
One of the suggested water conservation practices is to stop or reduce (decrease amount) nitrogen fertilization during periods of drought. There is no need to push shoot/leaf growth in the plant when other resources like water are limited. Hence, if your lawn is brown and “crunchy”, certainly do not fertilize at this time.

The partial silver lining…
The upside to this very slow growth and dry conditions is that drought stressed turf does not grow vigorously and thus will require fewer mowings. Furthermore, turfgrass disease incidence is also very low. Consider the current state of your lawn a “more sustainable” turf cover.

Cale A. Bigelow   Purdue – Agronomy

Read More

Drought widens and strengthens grip on Indiana

Drought both spread and worsened across Indiana in the past week, with the northern and southwestern portions of the state continuing to suffer the most. Read more...


Read More

Japanese Beetle Emergence and Management

Below is an e-mail conversation that may be of benefit to other turfgrass managers asking similar questions.

Original message:

From: Golf Courses
Date: Friday, June 22, 9:30 AM
To: Gibb, Timothy "Gibb, Timothy" <>
Subject: Japanese Beetles Management in 2012

With the early spring we expected to see early Japanese Beetles.  We did not really see any at all this spring or even now.  Do you know why?

Last year our grub treatment was very successful and we had little damage from grubs in the fall. With very dry conditions so far this spring and summer and moderately watered fairways, what do you anticipate grub pressures will be like this fall?

High soil temps and dry conditions during the last two months make me think that we may not have much pressure from grubs. Given that is a significant expense to cover even the watered areas for 36 holes, might this be a year to skip treatment?. 

Any thoughts on these ?


The Japanese beetles did come out very early this year.  We saw emergence
3 weeks in advance of most years.

A couple of comments to your questions:

(1) The huge numbers and wild fluctuations of Japanese beetle populations that we have experienced in Indiana over the last 20 or so years is starting to moderate. 
This cycle is common with infestations of any new pest.  In early years the populations seemingly run out of control, but over time parasites, diseases and predators naturally catch up and slowly bring the pest numbers down. You will note that Japanese beetles in the Eastern states are not the huge problem that they were when they were first introduced 100 years ago.   Their populations have been moderated significantly over the last two decades or so.  After their first introduction it took them many years to slowly make it westward to Indiana.  Once introduced to our state, they quickly became a serious problem every year.
The last 2 or 3 years have been moderated, however and my opinion is that we are now beginning the moderation phase of the pest cycle in Indiana.

Having said that, we still see spotty population outbreaks of Japanese Beetles
in IN. For every call like yours asking where the beetles have gone, we get another asking where have all the beetles have come from.  The reality is that they are still a very hit/miss pest.

(2) I would am very hesitant about predicting future grub damage based on observations, or non-observations of adult beetles.  We know that from past MRTF sponsored studies, beetle trap catches do not correlate very closely with the presence of grubs or with turf damage later in the summer. I know that this seems non-logical but the reason in part is due to the ability of the beetles to fly long distances in a short period of time. 

Our research in Indianapolis indicates that a mile is no real challenge for a motivated beetle to fly.  This, coupled with the dry season that we are in right now and the fact that you are irrigating your turf, means that beetles down wind of you may be on the verge of moving into your area to lay their eggs.  Irrigated turfgrass is a magnet for beetles in a dry year such as this one.

We have always suggested that if you are going to skip a grub application
with confidence, you have to sample. Sampling is work - but it can also save you pesticide application costs.  It may very well be that you will not
have grubs this year, but I would not count on it just because of a light
beetle flight.  Sampling fairways in August is what I would base my
decision on if I were you.

Hope this helps

Tim Gibb
Read More

2012 Imprelis UPDATE

A new publication, Imprelis Update: 2012 Field Notes on Injury and Recovery, was just developed by Purdue Specialists to address some of the many questions being asked about Imprelis in 2012 including:
  • Did trees recover from Imprelis® injury?
  • Are new symptoms being discovered?
  • What Should I Do if I Suspect Imprelis® Injured Trees BUT I Didn’t Notice the Damage in 2011?
  • What Is OISC’s 2012 Response on this Issue?
  • Can I Do Anything to Help Trees Recover?
  • What Do We Know Now that We Didn’t Then?
  • What Is Taking DuPont So Long?
  • Where Can I Get More Information?
To read the publication visit: 
Imprelis Update: 2012 Field Notes on Injury and Recovery
(PDF) (6/12)

Additionally, to help interested parties better keep track of all the information related to Imprelis, the Purdue Turf Program has created a website that lists important documents from the Purdue Turf Program, Plant & Pest Diagnostic Laboratory, Purdue news releases, Office of the Indiana State Chemist, EPA, and DuPont. Click on the link below to access this site.

Aaron Patton, Turfgrass Extension Specialist

Read More

It’s getting toasty out there! Update on drought and management adjustments

If you like your toast burnt and your bacon crisp, then you might be enjoying this weather. Most of Indiana has entered into drought officially as determined by the drought monitor (see map below). Maps are updated weekly and available at:

Indiana specific weather can also be found at including maps like the one below showing our precipitation deviation from normal over the past 90 days.

The extended forecast doesn’t look great for rainfall in the near future.Only one of the next 10 days has a chance of rain greater than 30% - and it's only 40%. Additionally, the temperatures are forecasted to be warm and breezy over the next ten days.

Additionally, subsoil moisture levels are approaching that of the 1988 drought due to our dry winter and spring. Image courtesy

How should you adjust your management?
  • Irrigation: See our recent update on this issue by clicking here.
  • Water availability: Many irrigation ponds at golf course are much lower than normal due to insufficient precipitation in winter and spring and golf course superintendents are beginning to conserve water and prioritize which areas that need water most either due to the their soil type, management, or their economic importance (i.e. golf course putting greens). I have heard of no water restrictions, but they might come at some point. Click here to read a previous post on this topic.
  • Fertilization: Fertilization in June is not typical except for irrigated turf. If irrigation is available, then fertilization can proceed as normal based on your typical program. However, if you are managing un-irrigated areas then it would be best not to fertilize during this dry period since drought stressed plants will not take up nitrogen. Additionally, some injury could occur to drought stressed areas from trafficking equipment across the site while fertilizing. We recommend waiting to fertilize unirrigated areas until after the turf greens-up after the next rainfall or in September at the start of our fall fertilization season.
  • Weed Control: See our recent update on this issue by clicking here.
Even the turf at Purdue's president's house is stressed.

Many are irrigating to try and keep turf green and growing; however, just because the turf turns brown doesn't mean its dead. Usually when turf turns brown during drought, it is just entering a drought induced summer dormancy and will green-up when sufficient rain returns.

Aaron Patton, Turfgrass Extension Specialist

Read More

Purdue Annual Turfgrass Research Report

As the green industry continues to have a large impact on Indiana and the nation, Purdue University has assembled an outstanding team of researchers, extension personnel, and educators that are dedicated to solving problems and helping meet the needs of Indiana residents. One segment of the Indiana green industry that continues to provide a significant impact on the state’s economy is the turfgrass industry, which includes residential and commercial lawn care, sports turf, cemeteries, sod production, golf course maintenance, and more. Indiana’s professional turfgrass industry is estimated by some to generate in excess of $1.4 billion in annual expenditures and provide over 11,500 jobs.

The Annual Report of the Purdue University Turf Program is published each year by the Purdue Turf Team and features significant findings made by turfgrass scientists over the past year. It is our desire that this publication will keep our stakeholders up-to-date on significant changes and advancements that affect our industry.

This 2011 Annual Report includes 21 papers from faculty, staff, and graduate students. We hope that these findings will enhance your ability to conduct business in an efficient and productive manner.

We would also like to recognize the many organizations, companies, and individuals who have contributed their time, talent and resources to help make our program successful. We are forever indebted to the many people who contribute to this program. Special recognition goes to the Midwest Regional Turf Foundation which supports the research and extension programs of each member of the Turf Team and also provides substantial support towards the operating and capital expenses of the W.H. Daniel Turfgrass Research and Diagnostic Center.

We hope that this publication will be of value to all persons with an interest in the Indiana green industry. To read more about our recent research, click on the links below or read more from the turf homepage at:

2011 Turf Research Report - Full Report PDF
Introduction to the 2011 Turf Research Summary PDF
Cultivar and Species Evaluations
Evaluation of Putting Green Bentgrass Cultivars and Blends PDF
Turf Management
Diverse Responses of Perennial Ryegrass Accessions to Submergence Stress PDF
Weed Management
Controlling Poa annua on putting green height turf in Indiana, Michigan, and Nebraska: 2011 Research Update PDF
Controlling Yellow Nutsedge With Sedgehammer+ PDF
Do Granular Herbicide Applications Effectively Control Broadleaf Weeds in Turf? PDF
Efficacy of Current Organic Postemergent Weed Control Options in Turfgrass Systems PDF Evaluation of Crabgrass Control with Various Dimension Formulations and Corn Gluten Meal PDF
Herbicide Safety and Weed Control Comparison in Spring Seeded Kentucky Bluegrass PDF
Herbicide Safety and Weed Control Comparison in Spring Seeded Tall Fescue PDF
Herbicide Selection and Timing Influences Ground Ivy Control PDF
Mowing and Herbicide Effects on Ground Ivy Control in Turf PDF
Preemergence Crabgrass Control with Various Herbicides PDF
Postemergence Broadleaf Herbicide Safety on Putting Greens PDF
Postemergence Ground Ivy Control with Herbicide Combinations PDF
Sequential Applications of Preemergence Crabgrass Herbicides for Enhanced Control – Three Year Summary PDF
Insect Management
Evaluating Acelepryn for adult preventive control of billbugs in Kentucky bluegrass turf PDF
Evaluating combinations of Pyriproxyfen and imidacloprid for control of Japanese beetle larvae in Kentucky Bluegrass turf PDF
Influence of application timing on efficacy of granular formulations of grubicides against Japanese beetle larvae in Kentucky bluegrass turf PDF
Disease Management
Effects of early season fungicide application on dollar spot outbreaks, 2011 PDF
Integrating fungicide and genetic host resistance for control of dollar spot on creeping bentgrass PDF
Residual efficacy of fungicides for brown patch management on creeping bentgrass, 2011 PDF

Read More

Should I apply an herbicide right now?

Here are some thoughts on summer weed control in non-irrigated areas during periods of drought:
  • Herbicides are ineffective on drought-stressed weeds and can be damaging to drought-stressed turf, especially when temperatures are warm. My rule-of-thumb is that if the lawn is >50% green, then herbicides can be applied.
  • Avoid the temptation to apply herbicides in a dormant (brown) lawn even though weedy species may be obvious as many are drought tolerant perennials, summer annuals, or sedges that grow well even in times of drought.
  • For yellow nutsedge and summer annual weeds (crabgrass, purslane, spurge, etc.), it is better to hold off on applying herbicides until rain returns and the turf begins growing again.
  • For perennial broadleaves, it might be best to wait until fall as these applications are better than spring applications for broadleaf control. 
Yellow nutsedge

Prostrate spurge

Here are some thoughts on summer weed control in irrigated areas during summer:
  • The question I most typically get in this irrigated scenario or during a summer when turf is not drought stressed is, Can I apply an herbicide when temperatures are 85°F or above?
  • First, you will need to follow the herbicide label as each herbicide acts differently.
  • Herbicide applications when daily high temperatures are above 85°F generally increase the risk of turf injury. Most herbicide labels do not prohibit applications at temperatures greater than 85°F or 90°F (each herbicide has a different maximum temperature), but they do caution against their use at these temperatures due to the increased risk for turf injury.
  • A general recommendation is to make the application if the site is more weeds than turf and you are willing to assume the risk of injuring the turf. In most cases, if there are fewer weeds than turf, then it is best to delay making the application until better conditions exist.

Aaron Patton, Turfgrass Extension Specialist
Read More

Early Billbug Damage Reported Across the Midwest

This season continues to challenge our traditional thinking about insect seasonal ecology and management. Indiana and neighboring states are currently witnessing serious billbug infestations with late instar billbug larvae already present in the soil.  This activity is easily 2-3 weeks ahead of normal. We advise all turf managers to take a close look at areas they suspect are displaying symptoms related to drought dormancy. Billbugs cause similar symptoms, but under these conditions they are capable of causing significant damage and loss of turf. Use the tug test to differentiate billbug damage from drought dormancy.  Simply grasp a small group of suspect tillers (brown and dead looking) and pull straight up. If billbug damage is present, the tillers will break-off easily at or just below the soil surface and the bottom ends of some tillers may be packed with very fine sawdust like material (see Figure 1). This is diagnostic for billbug damage. Repeat this process at several locations across the damaged area.

At this time, management options for billbugs are limited to trichlorfon (Dylox), carbaryl (Sevin), or one of the faster-acting neonicotinyls; chlothianidin (Arena) or thiamethoxam (Meridian). Application of these materials should be followed by irrigation (1/4”) or rainfall to wash the applied material into the activity zone of billbug larvae. Over the long term, it may be advisable to renovate susceptible areas to endophyte-enhanced turfgrasses such as perennial ryegrass or tall fescue where agronomically feasible.   

Doug Richmond and Tim Gibb 
Turfgrass Research and Extension Entomologists
Read More