More often than not, lawns affected by chinch bugs are confused with lawns that are suffering from drought. The first sign of a chinch bug problem is grass that will begin to yellow and then the grass turns brown and dies. It may begin as a small patch of dead grass, but it will quickly spread into a large area – expanding outward. A keyway to determine if you have chinch bugs vs drought is to water the grass. If the grass remains dead – you might have chinch bugs!
A chinch bug is a tiny that causes major damage to your grass by sucking the blades dry and then returning poison back to the blades. The chinch bug uses its piercing mouthparts to suck out the moisture and then injecting them with poison that, ultimately, interrupts the water movement within the grass – hence why it dies. An adult chinch bug is less than ¼” long. They are often with a dark red, almost black, body, white wings, and a white dot on its back.
Chinch bugs live their best life in the southern US and prefer St. Augustine grasses. They can be most commonly found in late June through early September. Pay close attention to the sunny spots of your lawn – especially during peak summer months when it is hot and dry. Important to note that the chinch bugs LOVE thick, lush lawns because it is the perfect place to feed and lay their eggs. In general, about 10-15 chinch bugs can be found per square foot of lawn. In small numbers they rarely cause problems because other insects, ants, ladybugs, etc., feed on them and help to manage the population. When the chinch bug is in its perfect conditions, drought and extreme heat, their population can quickly multiply to more than 100 bugs per square foot of lawn.
Most turf-type pesticides will kill chinch bugs, but you will want to check the label for certainty. Remember to follow the application instructions. Of note, pesticides will kill the chinch bugs BUT it will not do damage to their eggs. To be certain that you take care of your chinch bug problem, a two-step approach can be utilized. First step is to kill the existing bugs and the second, several weeks later, to take care of any eggs that may have hatched between the initial application and now.
If you are looking for an eco-friendlier solution, try dusting your lawn with DE (Diatomaceous earth) – a product made from pulverized fossils. This alternative has particles that are razor sharp and will actually pierce the bodies of insects that come in contact with it.
Once you have successfully removed the chinch bugs from your lawn you will want to reseed the patches that were destroyed. Pros note that you can use a regular grass seed but for extra protection to prevent further infestations, you can purchase a grass see that matches the type of grass in your lawn, such as endophyte-enhanced grass seed.
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