A damaged lawn

What Is the Best Way to Get Rid of Chinch Bugs?

The chinch bug is a common destructive lawn pest in the Toronto area and other parts of Canada. These nasty little critters suck turf grasses dry, causing significant damage and killing even healthy lawns. Fortunately, you can get even. Find out how in this article.

What to Know About Chinch Bugs

Getting to Know Chinch Bugs

There are many species of chinch bugs worldwide, but not all prey on turf grasses. Other species feed on corn, sorghum, and wheat. In Ontario, the most common type of chinch bug that destroys lawns is the hairy chinch bug, Blissus leucopterus hirtus. They can be quite difficult to spot because of their tiny size, with adults reaching only 4mm long.

Despite their minuscule size, chinch bugs in a lawn can be a massive problem, especially in summer.

Why only this season? It’s because chinch bugs live and breed in hot and sunny environments. They usually congregate on protected areas like the edges of lawns or under shrubs and trees in winter. They will only move into your lawn and deposit their eggs on grass leaves and stems as the temperature rises.

Single female chinch bugs can lay up to 200 eggs within 80 days. The eggs will hatch into wingless nymphs and mature into winged adults in just a matter of weeks. The nymphs and adults will feed on turf grasses by sucking the sap from the stems and crown using their piercing mouth parts. The grass becomes dehydrated as a result.

But the worst thing these bugs do is inject the grass with a toxin while they’re feeding. The toxin inhibits the grass from absorbing water. Dehydrated grass that cannot get a sip of water in hot weather will inevitably die.

Identifying Chinch Bug Damage

Chinch bug damage in lawns can be mistaken for drought damage because both cause the grass to turn brown, wilt, and eventually die. Here are a few ways to distinguish the damage:

  • Chinch bug damage in lawns is uneven, unlike damage caused by drought. The nasty critters create localized patches or spots of brown, dead grass.
  • A lawn infested with chinch bugs gives off an offensive, noticeable odor. It’s the smell of bugs getting crushed underfoot.

You can make a closer inspection to verify the existence of chinch bugs in your lawn and whether chinch bug control treatment is necessary. Part the blades of grass in a suspected area and search for tiny light red to orange nymphs with white stripes on their abdomens. Adult chinch bugs are black with white on their backs between the wings.

Chinch Bug Control

After confirming the bug’s presence, the next step is to know how to get rid of chinch bugs immediately. There are different ways to go about it, mostly depending on the severity of the current infestation.

Cultural Methods

The simplest option is to water more. This method is viable if the patch of infested grass is small and isolated. Ensure the patch is well-watered, especially during hot seasons and drought, to drown the chinch bugs. Also, if you employ a watering method with sufficient force, like a hose, some bugs will be pummelled to death.

Apply a DIY solution by misting damaged or suspicious areas with a soap and water mixture, then covering the area with a white flannel sheet. Once the area is soaked, the chinch bugs will be forced out of the grass and onto the cloth. The bugs will stick to the cloth, making it easier to collect and dispose of them.

You can also vacuum them up. Use a vacuum on the affected spot and about one foot around it. With a minor infestation, all eggs, adults, and nymphs should be removed. Do this a few times to be sure.

Biological Methods

Adding nematodes—microscopic parasites—to your soil is a natural chinch bug control method. Nematodes inject the host insect with their multiplying pathogen, which eventually kills the bug in a day or two. After that, the nematodes deposit their eggs on the remains of the chinch bug, which will later hatch and start looking for other chinch bugs to kill on their own.

Natural predators are another useful tool for controlling the population of chinch bugs. A few varieties of predatory insects and spiders that inhabit lawns effectively aid in eliminating chinch bugs. One such predatory insect is the big-eyed bug, which resembles a chinch bug but has much larger eyes. Tiny wasps may also feed on the eggs of chinch bugs, preventing them from hatching.

If you water the lawn properly, naturally occurring fungi will not harm the grass and will also help with chinch bug control. Research is being conducted on the naturally occurring fungus Beauveria bassiana to control chinch bugs.

Chemical Methods

Chemicals are also an option if biological and cultural control techniques are unsuccessful. However, they come with risks, so it’s better to get help from an organic lawn care professional to eliminate the bugs.

One of the most commonly used options is diatomaceous earth (DE). It eliminates chinch bugs by making them lose moisture and eventually die. Make sure you buy food-grade or garden-grade DE. Always wear goggles and a dust mask when using the dust. Avoid using it if you have respiratory issues.

Insecticidal soap is another less toxic chemical option. To use it, spray it on the grass and plants. Caution is also critical when using these soaps since they may also kill insects crucial to a lawn’s overall health.

If the infestation is severe and unmanageable and the damage keeps piling up, some resort to insecticide treatments to get immediate results. Several options are available, such as liquid and granular insecticides.

Follow the directions carefully, and treat only infested areas of the lawn. Mow lawns before spraying or spreading insecticides to avoid leaving residue on flowering weeds, which may harm pollinators. After insecticide application, water the lawn and wait for it to dry before allowing people and pets to access it.

Chinch Bug Prevention Techniques

Now that you know what kills chinch bugs instantly, here are a few tips to keep these damaging insects away from your lawn.

Chinch bugs prefer untidy lawns with thatch buildup, compacted soils, and too much or too little moisture. Therefore, proper lawn care can reduce the likelihood of chinch bug infestations and increase the resilience of the lawn. Here are some practices to prevent chinch bugs from ruining your lawn.

  • Ensure proper watering in summer by watering your lawn once a week for four hours in each zone at the most optimal times of the day.
  • Be careful not to apply too much fertilizer, especially nitrogen, because it will promote more insect activity. If the pH of the soil is less than 6.5, add agricultural limestone.
  • Increase airflow by aerating compacted areas.
  • Prevent too much thatch buildup because thatch is attractive to harmful bugs.
  • Mow your lawn regularly at the maximum height recommended, which is no less than three inches.
  • When choosing new grass to plant, choose an endophytic, insect-resistant variety of tall fescue or ryegrass. Endophytes are naturally occurring fungi that eradicate lawn pests like chinch bugs.

Find Out How LawnMart Can Help Keep Chinch Bugs at Bay

Don’t let chinch bugs ruin the beauty and health of your lawn. Call LawnMart for comprehensive organic lawn care. We can help you control lawn-damaging insects and prevent drought stress, keeping your residential or commercial lawn healthy throughout summer and the rest of the seasons.

Reach out to our team today for a free quote.