Chinch bugs are tiny pests that can damage your lawn, leaving patches of dry, dead grass throughout your turf. They feed on the sap of grass plants with their piercing-sucking mouthparts and inject toxins that cause the grass to wilt and die. Chinch bugs are most active in hot and dry weather and prefer sunny lawns. They can be hard to spot because of their small size and tendency to hide in the thatch layer or soil crevices. However, if you notice irregular yellow or brown patches on your lawn that do not improve with watering, you may have a chinch bug infestation. Here are some steps to treat your lawn for chinch bugs and prevent them from returning.
Before applying any treatment, you should confirm that you have chinch bugs and not another lawn problem, such as drought stress, disease or nutrient deficiency. There are several ways to identify chinch bugs:
Look for signs of damage: Chinch bug damage usually starts as small yellow spots that expand into larger brown patches. The damage often occurs near sidewalks, driveways or other heat sources. The grass may also have a noticeable odour when walked on or crushed.
Look for the bugs: Chinch bugs are black with a white spot on their back between their wing pads. Adult chinch bugs have white wings folded over their backs and are 4 mm (0.16 inches) long. The immature chinch bugs (the nymphs) are bright red with distinctive white bands across the back. As they mature, they change colour from orange to brown and finally black. Nymphs do not have wings. You can spread the grass and check the soil surface for chinch bugs. They may hide in soil crevices or under debris.
Use a flotation method: You can use a simple method to flush the chinch bugs from the lawn. Cut the bottom of a coffee or large juice can and force it 5 cm (two inches) into the turf surface. Fill the can with soapy water, adding more if the level recedes. Wait five to 10 minutes. If you have chinch bugs, they will float to the top of the can. Try this in several areas of the lawn, including lawn edges. The infestation is severe enough to damage turf if there are five to 10 chinch bugs per can.
The most effective way to get rid of chinch bugs is to treat your lawn with an insecticide labelled for chinch bugs, such as Ortho® Bugclear Lawn Insect Killer. The insecticide will kill chinch bugs and other listed insects by contact above and below the soil, creating a bug barrier in your lawn for three months.
To apply the insecticide, follow these steps:
Prepare your lawn for treatment: Remove as much thatch and overgrowth as possible so that the turf is exposed. This will ensure your insecticide reaches the chinch bugs.
Select your insecticide: Choose an insecticide suitable for your lawn type and pest problem. Read the product label carefully and follow all instructions and precautions.
Prepare your insecticide: If you choose a liquid insecticide, you will need to mix it with water in a sprayer before applying. If you choose a granular insecticide, you will need a granule spreader to distribute it evenly over your lawn.
Apply your insecticide: Apply your insecticide across your entire lawn, starting from the edges and working your way in. Make sure you cover all areas where chinch bugs are present or likely to be present. Depending on the product label, you may need to water your granular insecticide after application.
One of the best ways to prevent chinch bug infestations is to maintain a healthy lawn that can resist and recover from pest damage. A healthy lawn will also respond better to insecticide treatments. Here are some tips to keep your lawn healthy:
Choose a resistant grass variety: If you are replanting grass, choose an insect-resistant variety of tall fescue or ryegrass that contains endophytes (naturally occurring fungi that kill lawn pests, including chinch bugs). You can also mix different grass varieties to increase the diversity and resilience of your lawn.
Aerate the lawn: Aerate the lawn in spring or fall to reduce soil compaction and improve water and air circulation. This will also help remove excess thatch and organic debris harbouring chinch bugs.
Water properly: Water your lawn deeply and infrequently, preferably in the morning, to encourage root growth and drought tolerance. Avoid overwatering or watering in the evening, as this can create moist and humid conditions that favour chinch bugs.
Fertilize moderately: Fertilize your lawn according to the soil test results and the grass type. Avoid over-fertilizing, especially with high-nitrogen fertilizers, as this can stimulate lush and tender growth that attracts chinch bugs. Use organic or slow-release fertilizers that are less likely to burn the grass or leach into the soil.
Mow correctly: Mow your lawn at the recommended height for your grass type, and never remove more than one-third of the grass blade at a time. This will help to maintain a dense and healthy turf that can withstand chinch bug feeding. Keep your mower blades sharp and clean to avoid tearing or spreading diseases. Leave the grass clippings on the lawn to provide natural mulch and nutrients.
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