This lawn pest uses a piercing mouthpiece to suck sap from turf grass. Damage by Chinch Bugs appears as brownish-yellow circular dead patches of grass. As the grass dies, openings are created for weeds to become established. Chinch Bugs can be found throughout the lawn, but prefer sunny, dry areas near slopes, fences and edges of lawn. If the weather is cool and wet, only a small population will be found. Large populations occur when the weather is hot and dry, with little precipitation early in the growing season.

Identification

Adult Chinch Bugs are black with shiny white wings, and are approximately 1/8 of an inch or 3 millimeters in length. Their small size, along with their speed makes them very hard to see and catch in the grass. The nymph, 1/3 the size of an adult, does most of the damage. They are red with a white band across their backs.

Life Cycle

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 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 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.

Cultural Controls

A regular fertilized lawn can resist a Chinch Bug attack. Cultural practices, which include proper watering and mowing, is your best defense against Chinch Bug damage. Mow at between 2 ½ to 3 inches, and keep the mower blade sharp to prevent the ripping or tearing the grass blade tips, which create more openings for the Chinch Bugs. Keep the thatch layer between ½ to ¾ of an inch. Deep Core Aerating on an annual basis will help to keep the thatch layer in check. Applying one inch of water once a week will ensure your lawn does not dry out. Finally keep your hedges cleaned out, especially in the fall, as this is when the adults are searching for areas to hibernate in.

Chemical Control

If you find cultural controls are not working to alleviate the problem, chemical control is an option. Use a pesticide that will have the least amount of impact on the environment, and use a professional lawn service, such as Ace of Blades, to perform this application. Ensure the company has Pesticide Service Approval issued by Alberta Environmental Protection, and treatments are performed by a certified applicator. Insect control chemicals are hazardous if they are not used properly. Do not put yourself or your neighbors at risk by doing this yourself, or by hiring someone who may not be qualified.

For more information, call the professionals at Ace of Blades at 818-LAWN (818-5296),
or e-mail us at paul@aceofblades.ca.