Chinch bugs (a lot of folks spell it as cinch bugs but they’re wrong) are one of the more common of grass pests but luckily they aren’t usually something that has to be controlled.
Mother Nature does a pretty good job of controlling them.
Signs Of Chinch Bugs
You’ll find them on grass blades sucking sap and a severe infestation will create dead grass patches. Most of these patches will be at the edges of the garden rather than the center because the bugs overwinter in plant debris and under shrubs. So dead patches in the center of the lawn are more likely to be dog problems or perhaps even grubs.
You’ll also more likely see the problem if the season is hot and dry early in the summer. Wet seasons or well-irrigated lawns seldom have serious infestations as the pests do not breed well in damp ground.
In the spring, the overwintered egg hatches out and the female (a small fly) lays eggs on grass and empty soil in the driest areas she can find. In three weeks, the eggs hatch and the nymphs start feeding.
These are the easiest to identify as they are approximately 1/20 of an inch long, red with a white band across their back. Several stages later (and still eating grass leaves) turn into flying adults and start laying eggs. You’ll see two generations each summer.
The big problem in identifying chinch bugs is that poor lawn care looks like chinch bug damage.
How Do You Know You Have This Problem?
So how do you tell if you have a problem?
Use the coffee can technique.
- Take an old coffee can (8 to 9 inches long) and remove both the top and bottom, leaving a pipe length of metal.
- Insert the can into the soil so the bottom of the can penetrates down approximately 2 inches.
- Fill the can with water. Wait 10 to 15 minutes – note you may have to continue filling the can with water if it all soaks out – you want to keep the can filled.
- After 15 minutes, count the number of chinch bugs floating on the water.
- If 20 or more chinch bugs are present, you need to apply a control.
- If less than 20 pests, then no control is needed as Mother Nature will do the job for you.
Three Organic Controls
- Drench the lawn with soapy water. This will kill the pests if the concentration is appropriate.
- Drench the lawn with somewhat soapy water (this uses a lot less soap) and place old white sheets beside the area to be soaped. In about 15 minutes, you’ll find the sheets will be full of escaping chinch bugs. Dump them into a bucket of hot, soapy water.
- A soap/pyrethrum combination works well as a drench as well to kill the pest.
The best solution however is to have a healthy lawn.