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Extension > Garden > Insects > Managing lawn and turf insects: blade-sucking

Managing lawn and turf insects: blade-sucking

Vera Krischik and Mark Ascerno, University of Minnesota
Reviewed 2009

Figure 16. Leafhopper

Ascerno

Figure 16. Leafhopper

Leafhoppers (Family Cicadellidae, Order Hemiptera)

Identification: A number of species can be found in turf. During some seasons these very tiny green or gray insects become so numerous that when disturbed into flight, they rise like a cloud of dust. Most of the grass-infesting leafhoppers are less than 1/4 inch long, narrow, and tapered from head to tail (Figure 16).

Damage, scouting, and management: Populations arrive as annual flights from southern populations. Eggs are inserted into leaf tissue. Leafhoppers are sap-sucking insects, and their damage usually appears as irregular patches in which the grass has yellowed or bleached-out lesions. Established lawns are seldom seriously damaged. Eggs hatch in one to two weeks, and the young nymphs begin to suck on grass blades. Control is suggested for new lawns only and thresholds are not well established.

Aphids/Greenbugs (Schizaphis graminum, Family Aphididae, Order Homoptera)

Figure 17. Aphid

Ascerno

Figure 17. Aphid

Identification: Greenbugs are aphids that can damage established turf. The insects are small and yellow to green, and they can be found by sweeping your hand over suspected areas (Figure 17).

Damage, scouting, and management: Greenbugs are carried into Minnesota by southerly winds, so they can show up overnight. Aphid suck the sap from blades and the damage appears as pale areas often with yellow streaking. Damage is almost always near areas of the lawn shaded by trees or shrubs. Bluegrass is a prime target for greenbug attacks. Control is suggested when damaging greenbug populations are first noted, as they reproduce very quickly. Greenbugs are usually first found in late July or August.

Chinch bugs (Blissus, Family Lygaeidae, Order Hemiptera)

Figure 18. Chinch bug

Ascerno

Figure 18. Chinch bug

Figure 19. False chinch bug

Ascerno

Figure 19. False chinch bug

Figure 20. Big-eyed bug

Ascerno

Figure 20. Big-eyed bug

Identification: Chinch bugs on turf are rare in Minnesota. Obtain positive identification before attempting control. Immature bugs are red, but become dark as they mature. Adults are 1/5 inch long, have a head that is narrower than the thorax (shoulder), and have light colored forewings with a conspicuous black triangle midway along the outside margin (Figure 18). Immature chinch bugs (nymphs) are similar in appearance to adults except smaller with the wings absent or only moderately developed.

Damage, scouting, and management: Chinch bug populations of 20 to 25/ft2 can cause damage and may warrant treatment.

Non-damaging insects that live in the turf

There are a few very common insects or insect relatives that live in grass, but do not cause direct feeding damage.

False chinch bug (Nyssius, Family Lygaeidae, Order Hemiptera)

Identification: False chinch bugs (Nyssius) are small gray bugs resembling true chinch bugs (Figure 19). They are more frequently encountered on herbaceous plants, although they can feed on turf when the preferred food is not available. False chinch bugs are approximately 1/4 inch long, brown, and generally found in dead areas of the turf. They can be distinguished from the true chinch bug by the absence of a conspicuous black triangle on the outer wing margin and by a head that is about the same width as the thorax (shoulder).

Damage, scouting, and management: Control is not recommended.

Predator: Big-eyed bug (Geocoris, Family Gelastocoridae, Order Hemiptera)

Identification: Big-eyed bugs are predators and often confused with the true chinch bug. However, the head of the big-eyed bug is as wide as the thorax (shoulder) and the eyes are very noticeable (Figure 20). The big-eyed bug is a predator and feeds on other insects.

Damage, scouting, and management: Control is not recommended.

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