Can insects live in dead turf?

From Dr. Frank Rossi’s blog: Our ShortCUTT colleague and Director of Diagnostic Services at Rutgers, Rich Buckley recently blogged about a similar
experience when he ventured out into the turfgrass
research area. Here are his comments,

“We noticed some failing and dry turf in the fine fescue trials at Rutgers. Some fine fescues are very susceptible to summer patch and we did indeed find summer patch in some of the samples. In others, however, all we found were a couple of chinch bugs. The population of chinch bugs was small, and because of the sod webworms we noticed in the bentgrass areas, there was concern about them too, so we ventured outside to take a closer look.

Insect damage is often masked during periods of
heat and drought in late summer. In fact, we often
talk about damage from chinch bugs and sod
webworms manifesting when temperatures cool
and the rains come in late summer. The change in the weather causes the grass to “wake up” from summer dormancy. The insect damaged areas stay brown as the dormant turf greens up. If after the rain this week your grass does not appear to be a little more perky, then a closer look is definitely necessary. Of course, prudence suggests that one might have been paying attention all along, but better late than never! To more fully investigate this issue conduct a soap flush: Take 2 ounces of lemon dish detergent and mix it with 2 gallons of water. Measure out a square yard of turf and pour the solution on the area. Wait 10-15 minutes and see who shows up. Soap flushing irritates the insects, so they emerge from their daytime hiding places in the thatch and soil interface. This technique works very well with webworms, armyworms, cutworms, billbugs and annual bluegrass weevils, and to a lesser degree, chinch bugs. Measuring out a square yard of turf helps to quantify the insect population, which provides data to compare to accepted damage thresholds and make reasoned control decisions.