The western chinch bug, Blissus occiduus Barber, is one of four chinch bug species commonly associated with turfgrasses in the United States. In addition to B. occiduus, the common chinch bug [Blissus leucopterus leucopterus (Say)], the hairy chinch bug (Blissus leucopterus hirtus Montandon), and the southern chinch bug (Blissus insularis Barber) are considered serious turfgrass pests. These four chinch bug species are part of a chinch bug complex that have a wide distribution extending primarily east of the Rocky Mountains and from Mexico to Canada (Vittum et al., 1999), and have a well-documented host range that encompasses many economically important crop, weed, and turfgrass species. The hairy chinch bug is found primarily in the northeastern United States and is normally associated with cool-season turfgrasses, whereas southern chinch bugs occur in southern areas of the United States and feed on warm-season turfgrasses (Reinert et al., 1995).
Blissus occiduus has a reported distribution, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Oklahoma in the United States; and Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan in Canada (Baxendale et al., 1999; Bird and Mitchner, 1950; Slater, 1964). This chinch bug's host range includes numerous agriculturally and horticulturally important crop, weed, and turfgrass species (Bird and Mitchner, 1950; Eickhoff et al., 2004; Farstad and Staff, 1951; Ferris, 1920). Although the original report of B. occiduus as a turfgrass pest was on buffalograss [Buchloë dactyloides (Nutall) Engelmann], (Baxendale et al., 1999) it has since emerged as a serious pest of zoysiagrass (Zoysia japonica Steudel) turf in areas of southeastern Nebraska (Eickhoff et al., 2006). The growing popularity of buffalograss as a low-maintenance turfgrass requiring reduced levels of irrigation, nitrogen, and mowing (Frank et al., 2004) has dramatically increased the amount of buffalograss planted in newly developed areas, including southern regions of the United States. As these buffalograss stands experience chinch bug damage, B. occiduus will likely seek out secondary hosts in close proximity, such as bermudagrass [Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers.] and zoysiagrass. Furthermore, research by Eickhoff et al. (2006) indicates that of B. occiduus documented grass hosts, the warm-season turfgrasses bermudagrass, buffalograss, and zoysiagrass are at highest risk of serious damage.
Currently, insecticides are available that will effectively control chinch bugs in turfgrass. However, with growing concern over the effects of pesticide use in urban areas and the potential for the development of resistance to insecticides, the identification of plants with resistance offers an effective and environmentally responsible alternative for managing this pest. Differences in the susceptibility of several cool- and warm-season turfgrasses to chinch bugs have been well documented (Ahmad et al., 1984; Baker et al., 1981; Gulsen et al., 2004; Heng-Moss et al., 2002; Lynch et al., 1987; Mathais et al., 1990; Ratcliffe, 1982; Reinert and Dudeck, 1974). In buffalograss, Heng-Moss et al. (2003) identified the cultivars Cody and Tatanka as tolerant, whereas Prestige exhibited both tolerance and antixenosis to B. occiduus. Further research by Gulsen et al. (2004) identified the buffalograss genotypes ‘184’, ‘196’, and ‘PX3-5-1’ as highly resistant to B. occiduus. Although researchers have identified resistance in bermudagrass and zoysiagrass cultivars to other turfgrass pests, including bermudagrass mites, Eriophyes cynodoniensis Sayed, fall armyworm Spodoptera frugiperda (J.E. Smith), hunting billbug Sphenophorus venatus vestitus Chittenden, and tawny mole cricket Scapteriscus vicinus Scudder (Braman et al., 1994, 2004; Reinert et al., 1993, 2005), very little information is available on the susceptibility of zoysiagrass and bermudagrass germplasm to chinch bugs. The recent emergence of B. occiduus as a serious pest of zoysiagrass, and its potential to damage bermudagrass, underscores the need for information regarding the susceptibility of these grasses to this insect pest. Accordingly, the objective of this research was to evaluate selected bermudagrass and zoysiagrass germplasm for resistance to B. occiduus.
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