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How to Identify and Control Chinch Bugs in Your Lawn

Lawn with brown patches

Chinch bugs are a notorious lawn pest that can be found throughout Texas. While these pests may be small, they can decimate your lawn and leave it riddled with brown patches that are often mistaken for disease. Learn more about the tell-tale signs of these pests.

What are Chinch Bugs?

Chinch bugs are insects that are found in lawns and gardens. There are several different types, including the common chinch bug, the hairy chinch bugs, the southern chinch bug, and the western chinch bug. Each species has mouthparts that are specialized to extract nutrition from grass, which is how they cause damage to your turf.

What do Chinch Bugs Look Like?

These bugs are easy to recognize, but hard to see as the adults are only ⅕ inch long. They have black bodies with a distinct white stripe across their bodies and white wings that fold across their backs. The nymphs start out yellow and turn red as they mature, but it’s unlikely you’ll be able to see them with a naked eye.

Chinch Bugs vs False Chinch Bugs

False chinch bugs are often mistaken for chinch bugs, hence their name. While they belong to the same family, false chinch bugs are gray with a yellow tinge instead of black and white. False chinch bugs also prefer plants in the mustard family as opposed to turfgrass, although they’ll feed on whatever is available.

When are Chinch Bugs Active?

Chinch bugs are most active during the spring and summer, specifically during the daytime hours in late June through early September. This is because chinch bugs like heat and sunshine—that’s also why the sunniest parts of your lawn will have the most damage. 

Do Chinch Bugs Bite?

Chinch bugs can bite, but they’re considered harmless to humans. While they don’t have enough force to break the skin, they can mistake hair follicles for blades of grass, causing them to bite. If you are bitten, you’ll experience some minor itching and discomfort that quickly goes away as the bugs move on to seek actual food.

Where can Chinch Bugs Be Found?

Chinch bugs are found nationwide, so they’re a problem in every state. They tend to gather in the sunniest, hottest parts of your lawn or near a radiant source of heat like the driveway or sidewalk.

What attracts Chinch Bugs to Your Lawn?

Lawns that have heavy thatch and leaf debris are more likely to have a chinch bug infestation, as that’s where these bugs spend the winter. They’re also attracted to lawns with excess nitrogen, full sun, and minimal moisture. Even the type of grass you have can attract chinch bugs, including bentgrass, fine fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrasses, and zoysia.

How to Know if You Have Chinch Bugs

Visual confirmation is the only way to confirm you have chinch bugs. 

  • One way to find them is the tin can test—take a can that’s open on both ends and stick it into the soil three inches. Then, you fill it ¾ full of water and agitate the turf that’s submerged. If you have chinch bugs, they’ll float to the top of the water.
  • You can also lay down or rest on your hands and knees and inspect the grass. A magnifying glass is helpful for this, as their small size makes chinch bugs easy to miss. Look at the base of the grass blades and around the edges of damaged areas.

What does Chinch Bug Damage Look Like?

Damage from chinch bugs is often mistaken for drought damage. Your grass will become wilted and yellow or brown, then dry out completely and die. Damage usually occurs in patches, as well as around driveways or sidewalks.

How to Get Rid of Chinch Bugs

The best way to get rid of chinch bugs is to make your lawn inhospitable to them. To do this:

  • Aerate your lawn regularly to break up thatch, which chinch bugs use as their home and winter hideout.
  • Create a watering schedule for your lawn and mow it properly, never removing more than one-third of the grass blade, to prevent stress that can cause your grass to become more susceptible to pests.

If there is a large chinch bug population, chemical treatments are the best way to eliminate them. While there are store-bought treatments available, they can do more harm than good if applied incorrectly. That’s why it’s best to leave chinch bug treatment to the professionals. If you suspect you have a chinch bug problem, reach out to the experts at Aggieland Green for assistance.

How to Help Your Lawn Recover from a Chinch Bug Infestation

Once chinch bugs are gone, you can reseed your lawn to fill in dead patches. To ensure the seeds germinate properly, combine aeration and seeding with proper fertilizer application. Then, keep your lawn well-watered and mowed. 

Let The Professionals Help

There’s a lot of work that goes into maintaining a healthy lawn, and if you’re not up to the task, then consider reaching out to the professionals at Aggieland Green. We offer lawn care services that are guaranteed to help your lawn recover.