Small insects causing big problems in southeast Calgary

CALGARY — Southeast Calgary homeowners have a new thing to worry about that isn’t porch pirates, wandering coyotes or hail stones. They’re called chinch bugs and they are attacking lawns in the southeast communities of Douglasdale, McKenzie Lake and Cranston. 

Nutri-Lawn general manager Mike House said the pests have a voracious appetite.

“They actually suck the juice out of the grass blades and kind of like a mosquito they inject a toxin into the grass blade which kills,” said House. “And they’re in there by large numbers so they start to kill off small to medium size patches very quickly.”

House said it’s easy to spot the damaged grass once you know what to look for. He said many home owners are unaware of the insects and think their lawns just need more water.

“When you get extended periods of hot dry weather they just have more and more generations in the summer and they’re not interrupted by cold weather or periods of high moisture,” said House. “So they really thrived this year.”

House said if left unchecked, chinch bugs can devastate an entire lawn and the only recourse for the home owner is to replace it.

“The problem with these insects is they do overwinter on the properties,” said House. “They’ll go underneath shrubs and hedges so they’ll be back next year to lay new hatches of eggs so the infestations become exponentially larger and larger each year.”

Kimberly Friesen is a supervisor with Nutri-Lawn and treats problem grass for clients. She says the pests can usually be controlled with one application of insecticide on impacted areas. She said staff have been busy this summer visiting multiple properties a day.

“I would say between 25 and 35 and there was one point when we did maybe six houses all in a row, all on the one street because they were just going through the fences,” she said.

Home owners in the impacted southeast communities looking to treat their lawns themselves say many garden centres are sold out of product.

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