Scientific name: Blissus leucopterus hirtus
Problems they can cause: Chinch bugs are a major surface insect pest of turfgrasses in the Eastern United States
What are Chinch Bugs?
Chinch Bugs are small insects that infest the surface of lawns, using their piercing and sucking mouthparts to feed upon the sap inside the turfgrass plants. Because of this feeding, the chinch bug’s toxic saliva will enter the plant causing yellowing and even death of the plant.
Signs of Chinch Bugs in your Lawn
Chinch Bugs thrive on lawns in full sun with excessive thatch that is exposed to the environment. Chinch Bug infestations are also enhanced by high temperatures and dry conditions. Chinch Bugs cause damage that greatly resembles drought stress so high populations can hide in plain sight when there is a drought, only revealing themselves when drought conditions relax and the turf does not recover.
How to Prevent & Control Chinch Bugs
There are cultivars of grasses that have beneficial fungi that grow between the cells of the plant called endophytes that provide a natural repellant against Chinch Bug infestations. The best time to control chinch bugs with insect controls is to target the adults that are emerging from their overwintering sites headed for mating and egg laying. Large populations of Chinch Bugs discovered during the summer will require treatment as well as follow up in the next season to check for persistent populations. As Chinch Bugs have two generations per year in most of the Lawn Dawg service area, populations can be controlled before they have a chance to build up significant populations during the summer months.
How to Repair Lawn Damage from Chinch Bugs
Since Chinch Bugs kill turfgrass plants with their toxins, overseeding with endophyte-enhanced cultivars of turfgrasses provides a natural defense against these pests. A chinch bug infested lawn that is brown and not responding to irrigation may very well be dead and in need of renovation. Core Aeration and overseeding in the late summer and early fall is the best course of action in this case.
Adult Chinch Bugs have a distinctive black and white hourglass shaped design on their backs. Not easily detected from a standing position, a definitive identification must be made by closely looking at the lawn. Chinch Bugs can be detected by various methods of flooding a sample of turfgrass and watching for any Chinch Bugs present float to the top. Chinch Bugs will also be attracted to a white handkerchief laid on the surface of the lawn, too.