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How to Control Chinch Bugs

One of the trickiest summer insects to catch before serious damage occurs is the chinch bug. Because chinch bugs favor the hot dry conditions of July and August, their damage is easily confused with drought stress or lawn fertilizing issues, especially on slopes and on turf that is not getting regular irrigation. To catch these little creatures, you need to know how they work. Here are a couple tips to get you started:

Tip #1: Identify the area of your lawn with chinch bug damage

This insect is a small (1/6'') sucking bug that causes brown patches of grass as a result of its feeding.

Young chinch bugs do the worst damage by piercing the cells of the grass blades and sucking the sap. The blades that are attacked turn yellow, then brown, and then they die.

When a lawn gets infected with chinch bugs, it looks like it is suffering from lack of fertilizer. There are usually a lot of brown grass blades mixed in with healthy ones. As more chinch bugs hatch out, the areas get larger and the brown patch areas expand. Turf in full sun and on slopes is usually hardest hit. Chinch bugs are not picky eaters. Almost any turf grass looks good to them and can be killed by this small, but active, insect, including: 

  • Bluegrass
  • Fescues
  • Bentgrass
  • Zoysiagrass
  • St. Augustine

Tip #2: Make sure you know how many chinch bugs you're dealing with

After spending the winter in protected areas, adult chinch bugs feed a little in spring and then mate. The first generation begins hatching in late May.

The young (or nymphs) are only half the size of a pinhead. They are red with a white band across the back. As they mature, young chinch bugs shed their skin four times. By early August, nymphs of the second generation begin to appear from eggs laid in late July. Depending on the season and the weather, there can be either one or more generations per year.

Tip #3: Find the chinch bugs in your lawn

These insects are sensitive to light, and will scurry when exposed to sun. To check for chinch bugs, we go to an area we suspect and simply part the turf with both hands to expose the surface of the thatch. Because the chinch bugs are so small, we're looking for their movement as they burrow into the thatch. We normally check several areas to determine how serious the infestation is. Don't assume brown patches of grass in the summer are just from heat, dryness or lack of lawn fertilization: you may actually be seeing the damage of chinch bugs.

Things to remember when looking into chinch bug control:

  • Chinch bugs are most damaging during July and August.
  • They suck sap from the cells of the grass eventually killing large areas of turf.
  • Chinch bug damage is easy to confuse with heat stress. It’s important to check the lawn.

If you think you're seeing signs of chinch bugs, contact your neighborhood Spring-Green lawn care service. We'll be happy to take a closer look for you.

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