Adult chinch bugs are about 4 mm (one-fifth of an inch) long and black with white wings folded over their backs.
Newly hatched Chinch bugs or nymphs are yellow upon hatching but soon turn red and have a light colored band across their abdomens.
With each molt, nymphs more closely resemble the adults.
Chinch bugs live in the thatch layer of a lawn where they feed on the grass by piercing the plant with their mouth and sucking the plant juices. When the Chinch bugs feed, they release enzymes that facilitates easy feeding. The enzymes continue damaging the plant after feeding, and cause the grass to turn brown and potentially die.
How to Spot Chinch Bugs
Chinch bugs are generally found in hot sunny areas in lawns. They tend to aggregate which initially results in localized dead patches. These dead areas are brown, irregular sunken patches, which can coalesce into larger dead areas.
Damage generally becomes evident in July and August when temperatures get hot and drought conditions become more prevalent.
Heavy infestations can be identified by simply parting the thatch and looking for the chinch bugs. Light infestation can be discovered by cutting the bottom from a large tin can (coffee can works well) and pushing the can into the lawn and filling it with soapy water. Any chinch bugs will float to the surface.
The adult chinch bug spends the winter congregated under trees and shrubs and on the edges of lawns under hedges and in flower beds. As the temperatures become warmer in the spring, the adults move into the lawn and begin depositing eggs. As many as 20 eggs per female may be laid during May and June. The eggs take about 20-30 days to hatch at temperatures below 70 degrees F but can hatch in as little as a week when above 80 degrees F.
The nymphs grow slowly at the beginning of the season because of cool temperatures but speed their development by July. Damage may be visible from late-June through August. When cool temperatures arrive, the mature chinch bugs seek out protected areas to spend the winter.
Water the Lawn
Since this pest requires hot dry conditions for optimum survival and reproduction, irrigation during the spring and early summer may increase the incidence of pathogen spread, especially the lethal fungus, Beauveria spp. The adults can withstand water because of the protective hairs on the body but the nymphs readily get wet and can be damaged by large water droplets.
Use Resistant Turfgrasses
Overseed areas that have historically been damaged by chinch bugs with perennial ryegrasses, fine fescues and tall fescues that contain entophytic fungi. Endophytic grasses deter chinch bug feeding.
Pest Control Applied Using Integrated Pest Management Principles
Chinch bugs are rather easy to detect in turf and targeted insecticide applications can be applied to reduce populations which appear to be building to damaging levels.
Recovery From Damage - Slightly damaged turf will recover rather quickly if lightly fertilized and watered regularly. Heavily infested lawns may have significant plant mortality because of the toxic effect of chinch bug saliva and reseeding will be necessary.
If you suspect that you have a chinch bug problem, but are unsure, contact your local Nutri-Lawn and we'll come out and take a look for you.