Early spring brings a host of new problems for homeowners, including the appearance of adult chinch bugs. Although run-ins with chinch bugs are relatively common, severe infestations can and do happen every year. It’s important to be aware of your infestation risks, and understand what you can do to prevent future problems from happening.
Sadly, chinch bug problems rarely if ever go away on their own. This article will help you find chinch bugs before it’s too late, and apply the correct granular insecticide right when you need.
Chinch Bug Identification
Chinch bugs are lawn pests that may be difficult to spot without prior training. The common chinch bug is roughly 1/4 an inch long, and appears similar to a stink bug or squash bug. These pests are best defined by their oblong and shield-shaped bodies, which blend in well with turf thatch and dead grass. Other physical characteristics of adult chinch bugs include:
- Dark red to black bodies
- A pair of white wings
- Strong ‘beaks’ used for suction
Adult chinch bugs are the actual culprit behind extensive lawn damages. Using their ‘beaks,’ these pests are able to suck vital nutrients out of grass blades, quickly scoring through your entire lawn. While chinch bugs can feed on any species of grass, they have shown a preference for warm-season mixes such as blue fescue, Augustine grass, and zoysiagrass.
The Lifecycle Of A Southern Chinch Bug
Female chinch bugs lay their eggs in the upper organic layers of soil. After about four weeks, eggs hatch into nymph chinch bugs, usually around early July. These pests will start consuming grass roots right away, covering your entire lawn in a matter of weeks.
Nymph chinch bugs will molt several more times before becoming adults at the end of the season. Unlike nymphs, adult bugs consume the juices of grass blades, spreading damages far and wide. There can be up to four generations of chinch bug per year, depending on weather and breeding conditions.
As the weather cools, chinch bugs nestle into the upper thatch of your lawn, and overwinter until temperatures rise to an average of 70 degrees.
Scientists believe that the southern chinch bug can live up to one month, which is plenty of time to kick of an infestation. Learning how to identifying a chinch bug infestation can help you stop damages before they grow out of control.
How To Identify A Chinch Bug Infestation
Chinch bug infestations can be worsened if dry weather lingers for multiple weeks. Augustine lawns are even more at-risk for infestation during a drought, which increase risks for lawn death.
Like many other lawn pests, chinch bugs target unhealthy grass suffering from underlying concerns. This may include drought damage, insect damage, or the activity of other pests. In any case, it is important to keep a close eye on the pest populations in your lawn.
Truthfully, the best way to identify a chinch bug infestation in your lawn is with a float test.
Performing A Chinch Bug Float Test
You will need a few key materials to perform a chinch bug float test:
- A garden hose
- Hose end sprayer
- A tin can or coffee container
Section off a square yard of grass where you assume chinch bugs are hiding (hint: brown or dead patches). Stick your canister into the soil, making sure to remove both sides and create a hollow tube. Next, use the hose-end sprayer to fill the canister at least 3/4 of the way with water. Maintain that water level for at least 10 minutes, adding more as necessary. Chinch bugs float to the top of the canister, allowing you to manually count their numbers. The usual threshold for treating your lawn is 15 bugs per square foot. However, you may want to begin treatments immediately if your lawn looks stressed or bare.
In any case, chinch bug control is necessary to halt the growth and spread of pests in the lawn.
Chinch Bug Damage
Chinch bugs damage your lawn by sucking vital nutrients from grass blades. Affected areas of the lawn often appear yellow or brown, especially near the upper organic layer.
Below are some of the most common forms of chinch bug damage around homes and businesses:
- Bare spots or dead areas in the yard
- Visible damage to the grass leaf blade
- Circular dead patches in the middle of healthy grass
- General lawn damage or dead grass
It is best to work on chinch bug control long before infestations become overwhelming. Picking them off over time is a perfectly acceptable course of action.
How to Kill Chinch Bugs
There are two major types of chinch bug control methods: cultural control and chemical control.
Cultural controls help you eliminate chinch bugs over time. Introducing beneficial insects, regular lawn treatments, and watering the lawn regularly are all cost-effective forms of treatment.
Chemical treatments reduce chinch bug activity through the use of wide-spectrum products. Although chemical treatment can be effective in early stages of an infestation, they will be more effective as the infestation worsens. It is recommended to rely on stronger chemicals, including Bifen IT and Demon WP, during the heat of summer.
How to Prevent Chinch Bugs From Entering Your Lawn
Here’s how to get rid of chinch bugs long before they infest your lawn.
- Remove turf thatch from your lawn at least once per year. You can perform this task manually, or hire a professional for help.
- Water the lawn thoroughly during times of drought, particularly during the heat of summer.
- Ensure healthy grass by following fertilization recommendations for your location and grass species.
- Keep on the lookout for lawn diseases that make your property more susceptible to infestation.
- Consider annual pest control services for additional support, or yearly treatments that control chinch bugs with heavier product.
Although chinch bug prevention is the best possible safeguard against infestation, it isn’t always enough to keep the pests at bay. In this case, refer to over-the-counter chinch bug treatment to protect your lawn and landscaping.
Chinch Bugs FAQs
How do you get rid of chinch bugs naturally?
Chinch bug infestations often respond well to cultural pest control. Start by attracting beneficial insects to the lawn, particularly ladybugs, parasitic wasps, and small birds. Diatomaceous earth is an excellent follow-up treatment for smaller spots and infestations.
What are chinch bugs attracted to?
Chinch bugs are most attracted to lawns experiencing drought damage, secondary infestations, and other health concerns. Lawns with copious layers of thatch could also be a target during the overwintering season.
What kind of insecticide treatments can I use for a chinch bug problem?
How do I tell the difference between chinch bug damage and other lawn pests?
Chinch bug damages closely resemble drought, lawn disease, or other pest activity. Normal dry patches will regrow after being watered, while chinch bug damages do not. The best way to properly diagnose the issue is with a float or drench test, as mentioned above.