Chinch Bugs Turf

How to Manage Chinch Bug Infestations

Practices that promote healthy lawns help to reduce the occurrence of this problematic turf pest. Here’s how to get rid of chinch bugs FAST using natural and organic treatments.

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If your lawn is looking dead or droughted after watering, you might have a chinch bug infestation. There is no need to worry, though! In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about these pesky buggers, ranging from what exactly a chinch bug is and how to spot them in your yard to how to kill chinch bugs and keep them gone forever.

What are Chinch Bugs?

Chinch bugs are small, pesky bugs that commonly feast on zoysia grasses and St. Augustine lawns across the United States. A full-grown Chinch body is less than ¼-inch long and has a dark red/black body with white spots. 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 underfoot.

You will typically find Chinch bugs on lawns at a rate of fewer than 10-15 bugs per square foot of lawn; however, it is vital that you do not underestimate these small bodies. The right conditions (extreme heat and drought) can cause the population to multiply to over 100 bugs per square foot of lawn.

Evidently, these bugs can do extreme damage to your lawn if left untreated. Each bug punctures the grass with their needle-like beaks and then 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.

Chinch Bug Life Cycle

Adult chinch bugs overwinter in dry grasses and other debris that offer them protection. Therefore, damage occurs most frequently during hot, dry weather from June through September. There are usually 2 overlapping generations each year.

In spring or early summer, the insects mate and females start to deposit eggs on the leaves and stems of grass. One female can lay as many as 500 eggs. These eggs hatch in 1-3 weeks into nymphs, which feed voraciously and pass through 5 instars before becoming adults.

How to Tell if you Have Chinch Bugs?

The good news is that it is possible to seek and find chinch bugs if they decide to feast on your yard. The not so good news is that this task can be difficult due to the small size of the insect.

Because of this, it is best practice to examine your lawn as soon as you notice dry patches. We recommend using simply a magnifying glass and your bare hands. Since these little bugs do no harm to humans, there is no need to worry about getting bit. You can find the pesky insects best by spreading the grass near the soil on the outer edges of your lawn.

Signs of a Chinch Bug Infestation:

  • Dry patches in grass.
  • Grass is not growing even if you dry it.
  • You will be able to see the insects if you spread the grass apart towards the edge of your lawn

Chinch Bug Damage (Is It a Drought or Infestation?)

It is not uncommon to confuse a chinch bug infestation with water drought issues. Since chinch bugs literally suck the water out of the grass, these issues can be very similar. However, if you water your lawn habitually or increase watering and do not notice any improvement, chances are you have a few chinch bugs.

Another key difference between these two lawn issues is that drought causes consistent damage across your lawn. On the other hand, chinch bugs will eat your grass in patches. If you are still not 100% sure about the cause of your lawn damage, you can conduct the float test.

To summarize, if you water your lawn regularly, and you notice your lawn is not doing well, this is a huge sign of a chinch bug infestation.

  1. Cut the bottom and top lids off a coffee can.
  2. Push the can into the ground using a twisting motion.
  3. Fill the can with water.
  4. Wait for approximately 10 minutes.
  5. See if any chinch bugs float to the surface.

How to Manage Chinch Bug Infestations?

Once you spot red and black chinch bugs, you will immediately want to get started on removing them. For eco-mindful gardeners, we understand that spreading harmful insecticides on your lawn is less than optimal. Fortunately, there are a plethora of organic, healthy ways to kill chinch bugs and prevent them from coming back.

How to Get Rid of Chinch Bugs Organically

Organic remedies for lawns and gardens are safe, proven, and effective. We have researched several products that help deal with chinch bugs organically, and these are listed below:

  1. Spot treat small infestations with Safer Soap. Approved for organic use, it penetrates the protective outer shell of insect pests and causes dehydration and death within hours.
  2. Broadcast EcoSMART Insect Killer Granules over lawns and landscapes to eliminate or repel all kinds of troublesome pests.
  3. BotaniGard ES is a highly effective biological insecticide containing Beauveria bassiana, an entomopathogenic fungus that attacks a long-list of troublesome crop pests—even resistant strains! Weekly applications can prevent insect population explosions and provide protection equal to or better than conventional chemical pesticides.
  4. Least-toxic botanical insecticides should be used as a last resort. Derived from plants which have insecticidal properties, these natural pesticides have fewer harmful side effects than synthetic chemicals and break down more quickly in the environment.

How to Stop Further Chinch Bug Infestations

Once you have eliminated a chinch bug infestation, you want to prevent further invasions of the pesky critters. Here are a few preventative activities that you can do to prevent future infestations.

    1. Mow lawns at the recommended maximum height. Try NOT to remove more than 1/3 of the leaf surface in any one mowing.
    2. Improve soil conditions by top-dressing with organic matter such as compost or well-aged animal manure.
    3. Keep lawns well watered, especially during hot summer months and use slow-release organic fertilizers.
    4. Commercially available Beneficial insects, such as ladybugs and lacewings, will feed on a large number of these pests.
    5. Apply organic Diatomaceous Earth for long-lasting protection. Made up of tiny fossilized aquatic organisms, DE kills by scoring an insect’s outer layer as it crawls over the fine powder. Contains NO toxic poisons!

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