Chinch bug on a leaf.

What Are Chinch Bugs and How Do You Keep Them Away From Your Grass?

Don’t let chinch bugs ruin your plush and green lawn this time of year. Let this article guide you in identifying and keeping these pests away from your turf.

What to Know About Chinch Bugs

What Are Chinch Bugs?

Chinch bugs are tiny insects that can wreak havoc on lawns and gardens, causing significant problems for homeowners and landscapers alike. These pests, also known as “true bugs,” are notorious for their destructive plant-feeding habits. While they may seem insignificant due to their small size, chinch bugs can greatly impact the health and appearance of your outdoor spaces.

Before adulthood, chinch bugs have a distinctive bright red color with white stripe markings on their abdomen. They can grow up to 4mm long as adults, which is when their bodies turn black. They also develop white spots on their back.

There are over 20 species of chinch bugs native to North America, and thankfully, only four of them are reported pests of lawn grass. Unfortunately, Ontario, Canada is home to one of them: the hairy chinch bug.

Chinch bugs thrive in hot and dry weather, so infestation of this pest is a common problem in the summer. You will often find them congregating in open, sunny parts of your lawn.

Problems and Damage Caused by Chinch Bugs

Despite their small size, chinch bugs can damage your lawn and cause many problems. Here are some issues you are likely to encounter from a chinch bug infestation:

Lawn Damage

Chinch bugs eat grass, particularly Northern turf grasses like fescues, perennial ryegrass, and Kentucky bluegrass. They have piercing mouthparts that suck sap from the grass. During feeding, the insect injects salivary toxins into the grass, preventing the plant from effectively transporting and absorbing water and nutrients. As a result, the grass turns yellowish and eventually dies.

Reduced Aesthetic Value

A lush and green lawn is often considered a sign of a well-maintained property. However, chinch bug infestations can quickly turn a vibrant lawn into an eyesore. The discolored patches and dead grass caused by these pests can significantly diminish the aesthetic appeal of outdoor spaces.

Increased Water Consumption

Chinch bugs extract moisture from the grass, causing the affected areas to become dry and brittle. The symptoms of this pest infestation are similar to drought. As a result, homeowners may increase their watering efforts to revive the damaged lawn. This can lead to excessive water consumption and higher water bills.

Resistance to Insecticides

Chinch bugs are notorious for their resistance to some types of insecticides. This resistance can make it difficult to eliminate them effectively, requiring multiple treatments or specialized control methods.

Rapid Reproduction Rate

A single female chinch bug can lay up to 300 eggs in 40 days, which is basically its whole life. The eggs hatch within just three weeks. This short lifecycle allows their populations to explode rapidly, making it challenging to control an infestation once it takes hold.

Signs of Chinch Bug Infestation

Early detection of infestation and prompt action is crucial to minimizing chinch bug damage to your lawn. Here are some key indicators to look out for:

  1. Yellowing or browning patches: If you notice patches of grass starting to turn yellow, even if it isn’t drought season, consider checking for chinch bugs.
  2. Presence of nymphs and adult chinch bugs: Chinch bugs go through several stages of development, starting as small red nymphs and eventually becoming black-winged adults. If you spot these insects, you will need to do a closer inspection to verify the infestation.
  3. Visible damage: Chinch bugs often start feeding along the sunny parts of lawns, resulting in a distinct damage pattern. The affected areas may have a sharp boundary where healthy grass transitions to damaged grass.

If you suspect a chinch bug infestation, it’s essential to confirm the presence of these pests through a close inspection. You can use a simple technique known as the tin can method, where you cut both ends off a metal can and push it into the soil near the damaged area. Fill the can with water. If there is an infestation, the chinch bugs will float to the surface in a few minutes.

Swift action is crucial in controlling chinch bug populations. You can consult with a professional or follow recommended integrated pest management practices to effectively address the infestation and protect your lawn from further damage.

How Do I Get Rid of Chinch Bugs in My Lawn?

If you think there are chinch bugs in your lawn, calling the experts will always be the smartest move. They can effectively eliminate this pest from your lawn without you lifting a finger. Nevertheless, here are a few ways to deal with this pest:

Eliminate Chinch Bugs Using Organic Pesticides

Applying pesticides to your lawn is one of the best ways to get rid of chinch bugs. Eco-friendly pesticides effectively kill these pests without harming the environment or beneficial insects. Just remember to follow the instructions carefully and apply the pesticide evenly to the affected areas for the best results.

Apply Spot Treatment for Isolated Areas

Spot treatment is effective for localized chinch bug infestations. Identify the affected areas and apply targeted treatments. This method minimizes pesticide usage and prevents unnecessary disturbance to the rest of the lawn.

Reseed Bare Spots

Restoring the damaged areas is crucial after eliminating chinch bugs. Reseeding bare spots helps rejuvenate your lawn’s appearance and fill in the gaps caused by chinch bug activity. Choose grass seeds suitable for your region and follow proper watering and maintenance practices to promote healthy growth.

What Is the Best Chinch Bug Prevention?

If you’re dealing with a chinch bug infestation or want to prevent one from occurring in the first place, you can do the following tips:

  1. Regularly monitor your lawn: Look out for patches of grass turning yellow or brown and areas with dense populations of small insects. If you see any signs of chinch bug activity, immediately call the experts to prevent the problem from worsening.
  2. Maintain proper lawn care practices: A healthy and well-maintained lawn is less susceptible to chinch bug infestations. Follow good lawn care practices, such as applying fertilizer regularly and mowing the grass at the right height.
  3. Avoid overwatering: Chinch bugs thrive in dry environments, so water your lawn as frequently as possible. However, be careful not to overwater the grass because this can also damage your lawn.
  4. Implement natural controls: Consider introducing beneficial insects that feed on chinch bugs, such as ants and big-eyed bugs.
  5. Practice proper hygiene: Avoid the spread of chinch bugs by cleaning your lawn equipment, such as lawnmowers and rakes, after each use. Remove any grass clippings or debris that may harbor chinch bugs.
  6. Avoid excessive pesticides: While pesticides can effectively control chinch bugs, it’s important to use them judiciously. You must make sure the insecticide targets chinch bugs and follow the instructions carefully to avoid harming beneficial insects and pollinators on your lawn.

These tips can help prevent further chinch bug infestation and maintain a healthy, vibrant lawn. If the infestation persists or worsens, it may be wise to consult a professional pest control service for assistance.

Get Comprehensive Lawn Care Maintenance to Prevent Pest Infestation

Ensure a pest-free and vibrant lawn with LawnMart’s comprehensive lawn care maintenance services. LawnMart’s expert team understands the importance of a healthy lawn and offers tailored solutions to prevent pest infestation.

From regular mowing and fertilization to weed control and pest management, the team has you covered. Our skilled technicians employ advanced techniques and eco-friendly products so you can enjoy a lush, pest-free landscape without the adverse effects of chemicals.Don’t let pests ruin the beauty of your lawn; trust LawnMart for professional and comprehensive lawn care maintenance services. For more information about LawnMart, please don’t hesitate to call the team today.

Michael Schäfer

President – LawnMart Inc.

Years of Experience: 31 Years

  • Land Class 1 and 3 Licenses Since 1993
  • Pest Control Operator License Since 1995
  • PIC Accredited Pest Technician Examiner Since 2004
  • Biting Flies Control License Since 2020

Michael Schäfer is President and Founder of LawnMart Inc. After training privately under Dr. Larry Whiddell of Ohio State University, he became a Lawn Technician at Barefoot Grass Lawn Services (1993) and leveled up to Tree/Shrub Care Manager before taking over all Canadian operations as Area Manager. In 1996, Michael founded LawnMart Inc., which has since grown into a multi-award-winning company that cares for thousands of lawns in the Golden Horseshoe area.