Learn how to control chinch bugs naturally, without using poisons or toxic sprays.
Description: Widely distributed throughout the United States, there are several species of chinch bugs that are damaging to turfgrass. They are usually found on drought-stressed lawns where they puncture grasses with their needle-like beaks and suck the fluids out. As a result of their feeding, large irregular patches of lawn begin to turn yellow then brown as they die. These patches often begin on the edges of lawns and will continue to get larger, even when properly watered. Damage occurs most frequently during hot, dry weather from June through September.
Adult chinch bugs (1/4 inch long) are black and white, with whitish wings marked by a dark triangle on their outer margins. Nymphs are easily recognized by their bright red color and white band across the back. Both adults and nymphs produce a strong odor that often gives them away, especially when pest numbers are high or they are crushed under foot.
Life Cycle: Adult chinch bugs overwinter in dry grasses and other debris that offers them protection. In spring or early summer the insects mate and females begin depositing eggs on the leaves and stems of grass. One female can lay as many as 500 eggs. These hatch in 1-3 weeks into nymphs which feed voraciously and pass through 5 instars before becoming adults. There are usually 2 overlapping generations each year.
Chinch Bug Control: Practices that promote healthy lawns help to reduce the occurrence of chich bugs. Mow lawns at the recommended maximum height. Try not to remove more than 1/3 of the leaf surface in any one mowing. Remove excess thatch and aerate compacted soils. Improve soil conditions by top-dressing with organic matter, such as compost or well-aged animal manure. Keep lawns well watered, especially during hot summer months and use slow-release organic lawn fertilizers. Aerate and fertilize again in the fall. Beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, lacewing and big-eyed bugs, will feed on a large numbers of pests. Spot treat small infestations with insecticidal soap. Botanical insecticides should be used if pest levels become intolerable.
Tip: A coffee can with both ends cut out can be used to determine the level of infestation. Force one end of the can into the soil, fill with water, then watch as pests float to the top.