Lawn Chinch Bug Infestation: Damage Control 101

Kenneth Wilson

If you are plagued with patchy, brown grass one day, chances are– these may be because of chinch bugs! Chinch bugs may be small, but don't be fooled, as these pests can eventually kill the green grass you've been working so hard to maintain.

These tiny insects harm your lawn by poisonously inserting themselves into the grass blades, sucking the moisture out of them. So, this likely suggests chinch bug damage when you see yellow patches of grass that turn brown and die, especially in sunny areas during hot weather. In this article, we'll help you discover everything you need to know about chinch bug damage repair to remove this grass-eating pest from your lawn.

7 Methods to Deal with Chinch Bug Lawn Infestations

At this point, you may be 100% certain that your yard contains chinch bugs, right? Grass will start to turn yellow in the early stages of chinch insect damage. This will then wilt and turn brown. Chinch bugs will relocate to the edges of dead grass as it decomposes, which will spread the dead patches of grass outward.

A small patch of dead grass that starts small will quickly spread outward to become a vast area of dead grass. We've compiled the best expert-backed methods to help you prevent chinch bug infestations and how to deal with these pests the right way. (Related: Expert Chinch Bug Treatment and Control Guide (For Beginners))

1. Use a Broad-spectrum Pesticide

Fortunately, most chinch bugs will typically be killed by most turf-type pesticides. But, always read the label first. You can use products such as the BioAdvanced Complete Insect Killer for Soil & Turf Granule, which is known to kill listed surface insects in 24 hours.

Note that some turf-type pesticides advise mowing the lawn before application, and others might recommend thoroughly watering the yard first. Pesticides may kill chinch bugs, but not their eggs, so certain chemicals must be applied twice: once to kill any already-present bugs and once more a few weeks later. This is to kill those that have emerged from eggs placed before the first application.

2. Use Resistant Turfgrass Varieties

Perennial ryegrass, fine fescue, and tall fescue contain endophytic fungus, which must be ideally sown in areas that chinch bugs have harmed. These pests are discouraged by the presence of endophytic grasses.

3. Use Diatomaceous Earth (DE) if you want a Chemical-free Alternative

Homeowners who’d like a more environmentally friendly choice can consider Diatomaceous Earth (DE), a natural substance derived from ground-up fossils to dust your lawn. Although DE seems soft and powdery, its microscopic particles are pretty sharp and will pierce the bodies of any insects that come into contact with them.

And since it is also a desiccant, it makes bugs that come into touch with it dry out and die– usually within just a few days.

4. Water Adequately

Remember that chinch bugs need hot, dry conditions for optimum survival. Unfortunately, the spread of pathogens (including the deadly fungus Beauveria spp.) may be encouraged by irrigation throughout the spring and early summer months.

But the protective hairs on the adult chinch bugs allow them to survive water. The nymphs are easily vulnerable to injury from large water droplets.

5. Dethatch the Lawn Once a Year

Thatch, AKA a dense mat of dead grass that develops at the base of blades and causes damage to lawns, must be removed regularly. Strong, healthy lawns are less prone to succumb to chinch bug damage.

Your lawn's resistance might be weakened by a thick covering of thatch, which blocks air and sunlight from reaching the underside of the grass blade. Dethatching is best done in the spring, and you may do it yourself if you have a yard-size dethatcher (Best Options from Amazon) or hire a landscaping company to do it for you.

6. Cut no more than One-third of the Grass Blades When Mowing

Cutting more than one-third of the grass blades can strain your lawn, which weakens it and makes it more vulnerable to future infestations. Keep this in mind, even though mowing keeps your property looking smooth and lush.

7. Follow Proper Lawn Maintenance to Prevent Future Chinch Insect Damage

Healthy grass will have more beneficial insects, making it more difficult for chinch bugs to take over the entire area.

Ideally, treat the lawn with an all-purpose fertilizer every two months, starting in early spring and continuing until the grass falls dormant in late fall. Lawns should receive at least one inch of water per week, and it is better to water heavily once than sparingly throughout the week. During times of high heat and drought, you may need to water more frequently than once per week.

How to Restore Your Lawn After Chinch Bug Damage

It is best to help your lawn recover after the chinch bugs are under control. Late summer is the ideal time for lawn restoration. Additionally, you can work on restoring your lawn in the early spring once fresh grass emerges. Here are some fool-proof ways to follow to help bring your lawn back to its former glory:

  • Use the right grass mix that's ideal for your region
  • Test your soil to ensure the nutrients are sufficient for the growth of your lawn.
  • Follow weed-control measures to protect the beneficial insects on your lawn
  • Frequently water the soil to keep the moisture level uniform and prevent drying out
  • Follow routine lawn maintenance, including raking, smoothing, fertilization, and aeration.

It can be rather labor-intensive to restore a lawn that's damaged by chinch bugs, so you may want to consider hiring lawn care specialists to take care of the task for you.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do I know if there are chinch bugs on my lawn?

Look for spots or scattered areas of your lawn's grass that appear dry and dead since these are the common signs of chinch bug damage. These spots will frequently grow and merge to form larger damaged areas. Damage from chinch bug may look like drought stress and is not usually seen at first. Many people increase their lawn irrigation when the problem becomes noticeable, believing that the insect damage is caused by water stress. Unfortunately, applying more water won't make the issue go away.

Can chinch bugs kill lawns?

Chinch bugs tear grass blades with piercing mouthparts, significantly damaging your lawn. The grass blade dries out due to the bugs sucking off leaf juices once they have penetrated it. While feeding, the bugs also produce a toxin that can cause the grass to die. This feeding damage leaves behind areas of dead and dying grass blades. The chinch bugs will multiply and spread over your lawn, causing the damaged regions to grow larger.

Do chinch bugs have a preference in terms of turfgrass types?

The hairy chinch bug likes the following popular turfgrass types: Zoysiagrass, Perennial ryegrasses, Fine fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, and Bentgrass. Chinch bugs will be drawn to a lawn that consists of more than 50% Kentucky bluegrass if it is mixed with other grass kinds.

When should I treat my lawn for chinch bugs?

The best time to treat your grass for chinch bugs is during the summer. When lawns are most infested, you can take measures to reduce the number of immature chinch bugs before they begin to multiply. A second treatment may be needed after 2 to 3 weeks if your lawn is heavily infested.

How can I prevent future chinch bug infestations?

Stressed-out and heavily thatched lawns attract chinch bugs. The easiest way to prevent infestations is to maintain correctly irrigated and dethatched grass. Chinch bug numbers may be kept under control with just these two methods.

  • Dethatch your lawn. Even if you do not have chinch bugs, keeping your lawn dethatched is always a good practice. It will surely make your turfgrass less enticing for harmful bugs. By removing thatch, you can also reduce the chances that female chinch bugs will lay eggs and spend the winter on your lawn.
  • Water the lawn. Your lawn will stay fresh and healthy throughout the hot summer months if you irrigate it according to the schedule that is best for the type and location of your lawn. It's also important to remember that chinch bug activity is reduced during periods of heavy natural rain since many nymphs drown in the water.
  • Mow to the right height. Regularly mow your lawn and maintain the height at which your particular grass species is recommended. This may help retain the moisture in your yard and soil. It can also regulate the soil temperature and prevent the chinch bugs from settling in (as they like dry and hot places).
Kenneth Wilson
August 15, 2022
2terra, Contractor Tips, Yard & Garden

Kenneth Wilson

Retired contractor. Currently residing in Southwest Florida. Now in semi-retirement, I write and manage this blog focused on helping home owners make savvy decisions when it comes to finding contractors and getting their projects done. I also operate remodeling design service for homeowners.

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