So, you have a little bug problem. Specifically, a chinch bug problem. And you want to get rid of chinch bugs. And you want to do it fast.
They may have already torn up your lawn and left patches all over your grass already.
You’ll need to act fast.
These little pests will easily breed and take over your lawn quickly if you don’t get them under control.
They’re pesky and will eat up the grass and leave almost like drought-like damage behind.
This tutorial will go over some DIY, natural methods to get rid of them at home- quickly.
Ready to get started? Let’s rescue your lawn.
Last updated: 1/21/21. This pest guide has been updated for accuracy.
Where do chinch bugs come from?
Chinch bugs are pretty small pests, but they’ll quickly wreak havoc on your lawn and grass. They’re only about 0.25” and thrive in sunny, drier climates typically in the south.
They quickly eat through the grass and you must act fast in order to protect your lawn from patches and total destruction. They feed on corn, wheat, grains, and thatch. They’re often classified as Hemiptera and family Blissidae.
Chinch bugs take over lawns that are water-stressed along edges of lawns or where the grass is growing in full sunlight.
Dry, shell-based, or high soil are especially prone to chinch bug damage. They don’t evenly distribute a lawn, but rather leave plots of lawn damage throughout the entirety of the are. They distribute vertically from the turf thatch to the upper organic layer of soil.
Sometimes they can be seen rummaging on the blade of grass with the naked eye, as they’re pretty large. They eat the area between the turf thatch and organic soil.
You can read more about them on Wikipedia.
Chinch bug bites
Chinch bugs may destroy your lawn, but they’re actually pretty harmless to humans. Even though they look scary, they’re harmless and will only focus on plants.
You may have seen some people report that they’ve been bitten by chinch bugs, but they’re actually really not interested in human flesh. They want to eat grass and nutrients from blades of grass, not humans. They’re not able to break the skin and usually do nothing more than a pinch if you happen to get bitten by one in defense.
People often confuse chinch bug bites with other pests that are often found in the grass, so it’s easy to get confused and assume it was the bug.
Don’t get confused. If you have a bite and it’s deep, it wasn’t a chinch bug. They’re harmless to humans.
Do chinch bugs fly?
Yes, chinch bugs fly. And they’re very good at it.
Compared to poor flyers like darkling beetles, cinch bugs can navigate their way quickly and efficiently from one plant to the other.
This makes it very difficult to keep a specific area free of chinch bugs since they can easily migrate from one place to another if needed. So you need to keep them in control or else they’re very, very difficult to get rid of.
After reproducing, adults will fly to a new location to lay another round of eggs and leaves another new generation to destroy your lawn. They may also fly to overwinter by hiding in dense, grassy areas with plenty of leaf litter to keep them sheltered from the winter and cold.
This is why you don’t really see chinch bugs during the colder season as they’re only active during the warmer, summer months.
Chinch bug ID, anatomy, and sexual dimorphism
Chinch bugs are about ⅙’’ long when fully grown.
They have a gray/black body with fine hairs, white wings, and dark legs. Wings are folded over their backs and their forewings have a small triangular marking on them. There are both long and short-winged versions of chinch bugs.
Male and female chinch bugs look nearly identical and have no significant differences.
Nymphs are about a pinhead size and change colors over time.
They’re often found in denser grass and appear during the summer months and will lay eggs during this time. They’re hiding in the grass during winter until spring rolls around and temps hit about 50F. Then they’ll fly around and start laying eggs.
Females lay about 3000 eggs over 40 days. Eggs are laid in leaf sheaths and hatch over a short period. The eggs will hatch into nymphs which grow into adults in about 6 weeks, depending on temperatures.
When do they lay eggs?
Chinch bugs will lay eggs from July to August.
Nymphs will hatch and continue development from September to October. Then during the winter months, they’ll overwinter within the thatch layer.
Chinch bug life cycle
The chinch bug (Blissus insularis) lays over 250 eggs during her lifetime, which is about 4 eggs per day. Females will deposit her eggs on St. Augustine grass near where the blade of grass touches the soil.
Eggs hatch in the warmer, summer months in about two weeks with an incubation period of just about 12 days. Depending on the water, this process can be expedited or slowed.
When the eggs hatch, the nymphs look like a smaller wingless adult. They’re yellowish and will be changed to reddish with a pale white stripe across the abdomen and eventually fade to black with a white band as the chinch bugs grow.
Adults have a body length of about 6mm with white wings and a black spot on the forewings. There are long-winded and short-winged forms of chinch bugs.
What do they do to grass?
Chinch bugs will eat up your grass so that it looks like patches of yellow grass. You may see bare spots, yellowing, or browning foliage. Especially if the grass is weedy and tall and offers them plenty of hiding places to munch without being disturbed.
They like to hide where they won’t be seen so they’re safe from predators.
If you’ve ever seen your lawn in a drought, damage to it forms these pests look very similar.
Drought damage can be differentiated from chinch bugs as drought damage leaves an evenly damaged, brownish grassed area. Chinch bugs will leave mottled gross in patches or clumps unevenly with lines of undamaged grass between each patch.
You’ll often notice this around lawn edges, foundations, driveways, streets, bricks, housing, and other buildings. Take a good look at the grass for the presence of these pests and also look for their nymphs. They’re easy to spot because they’re bright pink/red with a stripe that’s white.
You can also use a tool to dig around in the area where you suspect them to be and see if any of the bugs grab onto the tool. You can also wear some garden gloves and look at the grassroots for any chinch bugs present.
The coffee can trick
One way to see how much of a chicken bug infestation you have is to use simple coffee cans.
You cut off the bottom of two cans and push them about 3” into the soil where the bugs are present.
Then you fill the cans with water and give it about 20 minutes for the bugs to float up. You’ll eventually see a good number of these bugs appear because they need air or drown. Here’s a general guideline to assess how many bugs you have on your hands:
- 1 bug: not bad. Low pest population. Be diligent and proactive by eliminating the population now.
- 2 bugs: moderate bug infestation. Act fast before they take over. They’re already likely breeding a population.
- 3 bugs: severe bug infestation. Will require constant elimination of pests and monitoring of your lawn.
The grass becomes very hot and dry usually during the summer months of July through September. This is why chinch bugs like to come out and feast the most on your lawn.
Here’s a video that demonstrates another way to check for chinch bugs if you don’t have a coffee can handy:
How to get rid of chinch bugs
There are plenty of ways you get can rid of these pests naturally and using DIY techniques at home.
There’s no need to use pesticides at first, but if the problem persists, then you can bring out the big guns. Start small and work your way up.
Getting rid of them will require patience. Be sure you do everything correctly and quickly to prevent them from eating up your lawn even more.
Do good documentation and note everything so you can mark changes over time. Using the coffee can trick, this will let you monitor your efforts to see how you’re doing over time and you’re doing with your extermination of chinch bugs.
Oh, and be patient.
Will grass grow back after chinch bug infestation?
Yes, with proper care and maintenance, you can always regrow your lawn and repair any chinch bug damage done to your lawn.
Of course, this vastly depends on the damage that has already been done. We’ll cover more about this later. Your first objective will be to get them in control rather than repairing your lawn!
What if they’re in my house?
Chinch bugs don’t really infest the house unless they’re just stray and wandering around.
Typically, they can be tracked into the home if you have pets or kids (or yourself) walking on the lawn and then carrying them into your house. They won’t naturally go into your home and infect it for no reason.
There’s no lawn there, and there’s no thatch. Even if you have a ton of indoor plants, as long as they’re not grassy types, you should have no problem with chinch bugs in your home. Unless you have plants like cat grass or wheatgrass, you should have chinch bug problems.
They’re likely just lost souls that someone found their way right into your home. Just eliminate them and be sure you’re not tracking them in somehow. Also, check your kids and pets, and be sure to check the shoes, clothing, and anything else that can be used as a vessel for bug transportation.
Dawn dish soap
Using Dawn dish soap is an effective way to get rid of Chinch bugs or any other lawn pests.
Although, keep in mind that this method is effective whether or not you use Dawn-branded dish soap. Any generic brand will suffice.
Pesticides will kill pests, but they’re not safe for pets and children. And this is especially something to be aware of if you have fruits or vegetables near your lawn, as volatile airborne pesticides can easily land on your edible plants.
Using insecticidal soaps will do much better for your edibles, children, and pets (not that you shouldn’t supervise and keep them away from the treated areas on your lawn). You can make your own soap at home DIY style that can kill chinch bugs, aphids, and some spider mites.
DIY chinch bug killer
This is how to make a DIY dish soap for chinch bugs:
Step 1: Get 1 cup of water, 1 teaspoon of dish soap, and 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil (any kind).
Step 2: Get a large container.
Step 3: Mix all 3 liquids into the container. Don’t stir. Stirring will just make the solution bubble and harder to handle.
Step 4: Get a spray bottle.
Step 5: Pour the solution into the spray bottle.
Step 6: Spray all affected areas of your lawn with the dish soap. Be sure to be generous in your spraying if you have a lot of chinch bugs.
For extra strength, use baking soda, garlic, and molasses with your mixture.
Also, be careful if you have sensitive plants as this mixture can kill wax coating on some plant leaves. Always test on a single plant first. This also applies to your lawn. Use the same method and only spray at a small area first before going liberal with the spray.
Continue reapplying the spray every other day for a week. Repeat if necessary after assessing the population.
Bug killer and Triazicide
If the pests get really bad, consider using standard bug killer made for chinch bugs and other lawn pests. Triazicide is another popular choice that works well for chinch bugs.
What pesticide kills chinch bugs?
You should also look into Sunniland, Bayer, Ortho, and others. Do your research should you go down this route since now you’re not using natural methods anymore and this could pose a harmful substance to your lawn.
Suppose the bugs are going crazy on your lawn, what do you do?
The best way to go about this is to use insecticidal soap, which you can grab at any garden shop. Go for the organic variety if possible, or at least all-natural one. A lot of brands offer a natural solution which will be much better for your lawn, children, and pets.
Look for solutions containing bifenthrin and/or acephate. Also, look for something in a granulated form rather than a spray. You can apply granular with a spreader that’s used for fertilizer. Be sure to use as directed until the population of the pests reduces significantly.
Chinch bug damage repair
Suppose your lawn has been ruined by chinch bugs, the easiest way to fix this would be to do the following best practices:
- Water more often
- Use turfgrass that’s resistant to chinch bugs
- Apply pesticides
- Resod damaged areas
- Fertilize new grass
- Overseed damaged areas with perennial ryegrasses, fescues, and similar grass types
Remember, chinch bugs damage is often confused with drought damage. Read the first introductory paragraph to understand the differences between chinch bug and drug damage. The lawn can grow back even after chinch bug damage. But you should really look for the color of grass:
If it’s yellow, the grass should recover. Any other color that’s darker won’t and you’ll have to reseed the lawn to get your grass back.
One type of grass that’s debated highly against using is St. Augustine grass, AKA Stenotaphrum secundatum. The reason is that chinch bugs prefer eating this type of grass and you’re just asking for trouble. This grass is often grown through zones 8 through 10.
Keeping chinch bugs away from your grass
After you’ve started diminishing the population slowly but surely, you can start to take measures to ensure that they don’t come back and infest your lawn all over again.
The first thing you should do is to remove the layer of grass that lies on the soil. This is the layer that’s often referred to as the “thatch,” which takes up about ¾ of an inch and builds up over time.
Chinch bugs like to take shelter here and getting rid of this layer will definitely help stop them from coming back again. You can use an aerator for lawn aerating shoes. These tools will easily get rid of the thatch and keep the chinch bugs out.
You should also practice good lawn care by making sure to keep the grass trimmed and apply compost, manure, and other supplements to help bring back the damaged areas.
Use a good quality fertilizer and aged manure to help bring your lawn back quickly from chinch bug damage.
Practice mowing your lawn at least once a week to keep the clippings short which will keep the thatch layer in check.
During the summer months, keep your lawn hydrated well but don’t water too much or else you’ll easily attract more pets. Also, keep track of when you water- it’s best to do so during the evening to avoid shocking the lawn from burns.
How long does it take to get rid of them?
With constant care for your lawn, applying the DIY techniques mentioned in this guide, and patience, you can get your lawn back within a month depending on how bad the infestation was.
- For mild chinch bug infestations, it should only take a week or two to eliminate them.
- For moderate chinch bug infestation, it may take two or three weeks to get rid of them.
- For severe or extreme chinch bug infestations, this may take a long time to eliminate all of them.
After you’re sure the bugs are gone, seeding and reseeding your lawn all depends on many factors. If you’re wondering how long it’ll take to get your lawn back, other than assessing the extent of the damage, factors such as:
- Type of grass
- Watering schedule
All have an effect on how fast your lawn will grow back. So keep that in mind when you’re trying to repair the chinch bug damage that your grass took.
Did you get rid of the chinch bugs?
Well, that should do it.
If you’re still having problems with chinch bugs, post what you’ve tried so far here in the comments sections and I’ll try to get back to you ASAP.
Or if you’ve had success with this or experience, we’d all like to hear it so we can all benefit from it! Let me know in the comments section as well!
Thanks for reading.
Currently an active researcher in the pest control industry for the past 8 years- with a focus on using natural and organic methods to eliminate pest problems.
I share handy DIY pest techniques I come across here to help out others (and possibly save them from a mental breakdown).
Fight nature with nature.