In recent years this lawn pest has been on the rise in our area. It uses a piercing mouthpiece to suck sap from the turf grass. Damage caused by Chinch Bugs appears as brownish-yellow circular dead patches of grass. Once the grass dies in these areas, they create openings for weeds to become established. Chinch Bugs can be found throughout the lawn, but prefer sunny, dry areas near slopes, fences and edges of lawns. If the weather is cool and wet only a small population will be produced. Large populations occur when the weather is dry and hot with little precipitation early in the growing season.
Adult Chinch Bugs are black with shiny white wing covers approximately 1/8 of an inch or 3 millimeters in length. This along with their speed makes them very hard to see in the turf grass. The nymph does more damage than the adult. The nymphs are smaller than the adults are, approximately 1/20 of an inch or 1 millimeter in length. They are red with a white band across their backs.
The life cycle of the Chinch Bug consists of three stages, egg, nymph, and adult. The adults spend the winter in areas that are sheltered such as hedges, piles of leaves or dried grass. As the temperature warms up, the females will leave these sheltered areas and lay approximately 200 eggs in hot, dry areas. These eggs will hatch in 3 weeks producing the nymphs. The nymphs go through five growth stages or in-stars before becoming adults. During a typical season 2 generations of Chinch Bugs will be produced.
Because damage done by Chinch Bugs resembles a variety of other symptoms, it is essential to determine whether or not the damage is caused by Chinch Bugs or by lack of moisture, or over-fertilization. One method is to take a large can, cut both ends off and push it down into the top layer of grass. Use an area where the brownish-yellow grass meets the healthy green grass. Fill the can with water and watch for the Chinch Bugs to float to the top.
A well-fertilized lawn can resist a Chinch Bug attack. Good lawn care is your best defense against Chinch Bug damage. Keep the lawn well fertilized and take care in adding too much or too little nitrogen. Use proper mowing practices. Mow at between 2 ½ to 3 inches, keep the blade sharp to prevent the blade from ripping the tips of the blade, which create more openings for the Chinch Bugs. Keep the thatch layer between ½ to ¾ of an inch, regular deep core aeration can help in this area. Finally keep your hedges cleaned out, especially in the fall, as this is when the adults are searching for areas to over-winter.
If you find cultural controls are not working to alleviate the problem, use a pesticide that will have the least amount of impact on the environment. If you are having a professional lawn service perform this application for you ensure the company has a Pesticide Service Approval and that applications are performed by a certified applicator. Insect control chemicals can be hazardous if they are not used properly. Do not put yourself or your neighbours at risk by hiring someone who may not be qualified.
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