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Chinch bugs can cause a shudder down the spine of any homeowner or lawn care devotee, and rightly so. This minuscule bug causes millions of dollars of damage to property in Florida each year. Here’s what you need to know about cinch bugs, how to identify chinch bugs in your lawn, and what to do if you have them.

All About Chinch Bugs

The southern chinch bug is a 6 mm long pest of St. Augustinegrass, which is the most commonly grown grass in Florida due to its hardy nature. (They can also nosh on Zoysia and Bermuda grass.) 

These guys love St. Augustinegrass and warm weather, meaning they tend to be most active during the summer months. The Entomology + Nematology Department at the University of Florida reports that infestations tend to peak in early July. However, thanks to Florida’s generally temperate climate, chinch bugs can be active all year round.

While these guys can technically fly, chinch bugs move from lawn to lawn within neighborhoods by walking. During relocation, the population may cover over 400 feet in under an hour, an impressive achievement for such small creatures. (Source)

Chinch bugs kill the grass by gathering around the base of the plant (the stolon) and draining the sap from the blades of grass. Their toxic saliva left behind inhibits water uptake back into the leaves, causing the grass to die.  

How to Identify Chinch Bugs and Chinch Bug Damage

Once again, the researchers at the University of Florida have plenty of great information for Florida residents. 

“Damaged areas appear as yellow to brown patches and injury typically occurs first in grass that’s water-stressed or in full sun. Chinch bugs are most active when it’s warm, but may cause damage year-round, particularly in South Florida. 

It’s important to remember that not all brown grass indicates a chinch bug infestation. If you suspect you have chinch bugs, inspect the border between the brown and green grass for the tiny, black-and-white adults or orange [or yellow or red] nymphs.”

Chinch bug damage is often circular in shape, which is another clue that you’ve got a problem.

Researchers Short and Black have a DIY diagnosis method you may consider as well:

“To test for chinch bug presence, use the flotation method: remove the bottom of a metal coffee can and insert the can into the soil surrounding the discolored grass. Use a knife or shovel to dig the edges of the can down 3 inches into the soil. Fill the can with water continuously for five minutes. The chinch bugs trapped in the can will float to the top of the water. Repeat this method at least four times throughout the discolored area, concentrating on the perimeter of the injured spots, to ensure proper diagnosis (Short and Black 1997).”

What to Do If You Have Chinch Bugs in Volusia County

Yellow or brownish spots could also indicate root rot, nematodes, dehydration, sunburn, and other lawn maladies, so it’s essential to have a professional take a look.

Speed is of the utmost importance when it comes to a chinch bug infestation, because they can cause a tremendous amount of damage very quickly. Give us a call at 386-673-1557 to schedule a free inspection. We’ll check out the damage and come up with a treatment plan to get you back in the green as soon as possible.

How to Prevent Chinch Bugs

The first step in preventing a critical chinch bug infestation is making sure your grass is as strong and healthy as possible. That way, if a few of these pests do find their way in, the grass will have a better chance of surviving.

Here are a few lawn care tips for strong, healthy St. Augustinegrass:

  • Keep the height to 3.5 – 4 inches for maximum root strength.
  • Mow more frequently with a sharpened blade (and take off less) to reduce overall stress on the grass.
  • Use a time-release or multiple application fertilizer. 
  • Avoid over-watering by irrigating only after wilting begins.

One more important prevention method is to control thatch in the grass to a minimum. Thatch is a thick, spongy layer made up of living and dead grass shoots, stems, and roots that exists between the soil and the grass blades in your lawn. Learn more about thatch management here.

Don’t let chinch bugs ruin your lawn or your fun outdoor summer activities. Give us a call at 386-673-1557 and we’ll be happy to lend a hand.

Todd Stebleton is the owner and operator of Universal Pest Control, a family-owned business for over 25 years in Ormond Beach, Florida. He and his wife Natalie are proud to have built a company focused on conducting business with honesty and integrity: keeping customers first, protecting the environment, and providing trustworthy, personal service.

Universal: Honest, Environmentally Friendly Pest Control