Chinch Bug: All You Need to Know for a Healthy Lawn

Chinch bugs are a common pest found in lawns and landscapes, causing damage to grass by piercing plants with their needle-like mouthparts and sucking plant juices. These insects can be quite challenging to deal with, as they are small and tend to blend in with the turf and thatch. The most common species is the hairy chinch bug (Blissus leucopterus), which prefers fine fescue and Kentucky bluegrass.

Identifying chinch bugs early is crucial to minimizing damage. Adult chinch bugs are approximately 0.1-0.2 inch long, oblong, oval, and black with shiny white wings. Each wing bears a distinctive, triangular black mark. Nymphs, on the other hand, are smaller and change in color and appearance as they grow, starting out red and wingless and developing white wings as they mature.

To detect their presence in your lawn, you can check the border between brown and green grass for the tiny adult chinch bugs or orange nymphs. Another method is to use a coffee can with the bottom removed, pushing it into the turf and filling it with water. Chinch bugs will float to the surface after a few minutes, revealing their presence. Once you’ve identified a chinch bug infestation, it’s important to research and apply appropriate control measures to minimize damage and maintain the health of your lawn.

Chinch Bug Basics

Identifying Chinch Bugs

Chinch bugs are small insects that can cause damage to turfgrass, particularly during drought conditions. Adult chinch bugs have black bodies and are almost 3/16-inch long, with frosty-white wings that feature distinctive triangular black markings source. Nymphs, the younger stage of chinch bugs, are wingless and appear orange to red in color.

To differentiate between types of chinch bugs:

  • Hairy chinch bug: 1/16-inch long, black with white wings and red legs source.
  • Common chinch bug: Blissus species, black bodies with black patch-like markings on white wings source.
  • Southern chinch bug: Oblong, oval, black with shiny white wings, and a triangular black mark on each wing source.

Life Cycle of Chinch Bugs

The life cycle of chinch bugs consists of multiple stages, starting from eggs, then evolving into nymphs before reaching the adult stage.

Key features of chinch bug life cycle:

  • Eggs are laid in grass stems or soil by adult females.
  • Nymphs hatch and begin feeding on plant juices, going through multiple instars (growth stages) before becoming adults.
  • Adult chinch bugs can fly, mate, and continue the cycle.

Pros and cons of chinch bugs in turfgrass:

Pros:

  • Not all types of chinch bugs cause severe damage to turfgrass.

Cons:

  • They can cause drought-like symptoms in turfgrass, affecting its aesthetics and health.
  • Some chinch bugs, like the hairy chinch bug, can be very destructive to home lawns.

Comparison table:

Chinch Bug Type Body Color Wing Color Markings Size
Hairy Chinch Bug Black White None 1/16-inch
Common Chinch Bug Black White Black patches 3/16-inch
Southern Chinch Bug Black Shiny White Triangular black 0.1-0.2 inch

Damage Caused by Chinch Bugs

Symptoms and Signs

Chinch bug infestations can cause significant damage to lawns, leading to yellow patches and dead grass. Some symptoms of chinch bug damage include:

  • Small, irregular yellow patches in the lawn
  • Growing dead patches as the infestation progresses

It’s important to inspect the border between brown and green grass for adult chinch bugs, which are tiny, black, and white, or orange nymphs, to identify the infestation correctly source.

Affected Grasses

Chinch bugs can affect various types of grasses but tend to prefer specific species. Here’s a comparison table of grass species often targeted by chinch bugs:

Grass Species Likelihood of Chinch Bug Infestation
Kentucky Bluegrass High
Fescues (e.g., Tall Fescue) High
Zoysia Medium
Ryegrass Medium
Bermuda Grass Low
St. Augustine Grass Low

Chinch bug preference source: extension.unh.edu

Chinch bugs feed primarily on the sap of grass blades, causing the grass to wilt, turn yellow, and eventually die source.

For example, a lawn with a Kentucky Bluegrass infestation may experience more significant damage than one with Bermuda Grass, as chinch bugs have a higher preference for the former.

To limit chinch bug damage to your lawn, consider selecting grass species less prone to chinch bug infestations, such as Bermuda Grass or St. Augustine Grass.

Prevention and Control Methods

Cultural Practices

Maintaining a healthy lawn can help prevent chinch bug infestations. Follow these tips:

  • Mowing: Keep your grass at the recommended height for the specific type you have.
  • Watering: Irrigate your lawn during dry periods to reduce stress on the grass.
  • Fertilization: Use slow-release nitrogen fertilizers to avoid fast growth that chinch bugs prefer.

Paying attention to thatch buildup is crucial. Dethatching your lawn can help minimize chinch bug habitats and promote a healthy lawn.

Some grass types, like perennial ryegrass, endophyte-enhanced fescues, and Zoysia grass, have increased resistance against chinch bugs.

Biological Controls and Beneficial Insects

Natural predators of chinch bugs exist which can help you manage infestations:

  • Ground beetles
  • Ladybug
  • Big-eyed bug

Encouraging the presence of beneficial insects in your lawn will reduce chinch bug populations. Avoid using broad-spectrum pesticides that may harm these natural predators.

Chemical Controls

Chemical insecticides can provide effective control against chinch bug infestations. However, it is essential to use them responsibly and as a last resort. Examples of chemical treatments include:

  • Permethrin
  • Bifenthrin
  • Carbaryl
  • Trichlorfon

Apply chemicals only when you see signs of bug damage and confirm their presence using the float test. Target specific areas rather than the entire lawn. Avoid over-application and ensure proper timing to minimize environmental harm.

Chemical Pro Con
Permethrin Effective against chinch bugs May harm beneficial insects
Bifenthrin Long-lasting May harm fish and aquatic invertebrates
Carbaryl Broad-spectrum insecticide May harm beneficial insects
Trichlorfon Effective systemic insecticide Short residual activity

Granular insecticides are less effective against chinch bugs, so focus on liquid formulations. Remember that a healthy, well-maintained lawn is always the first line of defense against chinch bug infestations.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Chinch Bug

 

Friends needs help
Location:  Canada, Ontario
August 6, 2010 3:39 pm
Hey, apparently my friend and his neighbors are seeing these bugs all over there properties. Any idea what it is?
Devon

Chinch Bug

Hi Devon,
This is a Chinch Bug in the genus Blissus.  You can probably find copious information online now that you have an identification because the Chinch Bugs are considered lawn pests.  According to BugGuide:  “nymphs and adults feed on forage, lawn, and wild grasses plus crop plants, including wheat, corn, sorghum, oats
” and “Chinch bugs pierce the plant with their mouth parts and suck out the plant sap. This feeding prevents normal growth and results in dwarfing, lodging, and yield reduction. Severe infestations during early development may cause plants to wilt and die prematurely.

Letter 2 – Chinch Bugs

 

what can I get to kill chinch bugs in my lawn which is St Agustine grass I am going all of these dead spots in my lawn also I never something that will not harm my dog.. Please help any information would be greatly appreciated Barry

Dear Barry,
There is a naturally occurring green muscardine fungus Beauveria bassiana, which will kill them. It is not harmful to pets and is available commercially. Check with your local nursery.

Letter 3 – Chinch Bugs

 

Identify this bug
July 26, 2009
This is a tiny bug that has been running along the edge of my house and garage for a week or so. There are zillions of them. The largest is about 1/2cm long. I live in central FL and it’s late July. The colorful one appears to be a juvenile.
Bug in FL
Central Florida

Chinch Bug
Chinch Bug

Dear Bug in FL,
This is a Chinch Bug in the genus Blissus.  According to BugGuide: “nymphs and adults feed on forage, lawn, and wild grasses plus crop plants, including wheat, corn, sorghum, oats
” and we have also read that they are very fond of St Augustine Grass.

Chinch Bug
Chinch Bug

Letter 4 – Chinch Bug

 

Subject:  What is this bug??
Geographic location of the bug:  Durham NC
Date: 09/01/2021
Time: 12:46 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I found this bug in our greenhouse and I cannot ID it.  photo taken with dissection microscope.
How you want your letter signed:  Cari M

Chinch Bug

Dear Carl,
This is a Chinch Bug in the genus
Blissus, and according to BugGuide:  “nymphs and adults feed on forage, lawn, wild, and crop grasses” and “This feeding prevents normal growth and results in dwarfing, lodging, and yield reduction. Severe infestations during early development may cause plants to wilt and die prematurely.”

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Chinch Bug

 

Friends needs help
Location:  Canada, Ontario
August 6, 2010 3:39 pm
Hey, apparently my friend and his neighbors are seeing these bugs all over there properties. Any idea what it is?
Devon

Chinch Bug

Hi Devon,
This is a Chinch Bug in the genus Blissus.  You can probably find copious information online now that you have an identification because the Chinch Bugs are considered lawn pests.  According to BugGuide:  “nymphs and adults feed on forage, lawn, and wild grasses plus crop plants, including wheat, corn, sorghum, oats
” and “Chinch bugs pierce the plant with their mouth parts and suck out the plant sap. This feeding prevents normal growth and results in dwarfing, lodging, and yield reduction. Severe infestations during early development may cause plants to wilt and die prematurely.

Letter 2 – Chinch Bugs

 

what can I get to kill chinch bugs in my lawn which is St Agustine grass I am going all of these dead spots in my lawn also I never something that will not harm my dog.. Please help any information would be greatly appreciated Barry

Dear Barry,
There is a naturally occurring green muscardine fungus Beauveria bassiana, which will kill them. It is not harmful to pets and is available commercially. Check with your local nursery.

Letter 3 – Chinch Bugs

 

Identify this bug
July 26, 2009
This is a tiny bug that has been running along the edge of my house and garage for a week or so. There are zillions of them. The largest is about 1/2cm long. I live in central FL and it’s late July. The colorful one appears to be a juvenile.
Bug in FL
Central Florida

Chinch Bug
Chinch Bug

Dear Bug in FL,
This is a Chinch Bug in the genus Blissus.  According to BugGuide: “nymphs and adults feed on forage, lawn, and wild grasses plus crop plants, including wheat, corn, sorghum, oats
” and we have also read that they are very fond of St Augustine Grass.

Chinch Bug
Chinch Bug

Letter 4 – Chinch Bug

 

Subject:  What is this bug??
Geographic location of the bug:  Durham NC
Date: 09/01/2021
Time: 12:46 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I found this bug in our greenhouse and I cannot ID it.  photo taken with dissection microscope.
How you want your letter signed:  Cari M

Chinch Bug

Dear Carl,
This is a Chinch Bug in the genus
Blissus, and according to BugGuide:  “nymphs and adults feed on forage, lawn, wild, and crop grasses” and “This feeding prevents normal growth and results in dwarfing, lodging, and yield reduction. Severe infestations during early development may cause plants to wilt and die prematurely.”

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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