Chinch Bug: Plant Damage and Control

Chinch bugs suck juices from stems and crowns, causing yellowing or dead patches of turf. Two closely related species are important pests of turfgrasses, especially in lawns. These pests cause most damage under hot conditions when the plants are stressed. The hairy chinch bug attacks cool-season turfgrasses, damaging bentgrasses, bluegrasses, and fine-leaf fescues. The southern chinch bug is a highly destructive pest of St. Augustinegrass lawns in Florida and the Gulf Coast region. Two other species, the common chinch bug, Blissus leucopterus leucopterus, and the buffalograss chinch bug, Blissus sp., are occasional pests of turf. The common chinch bugs feed on grasses, wheat, other small grains, corn sorghum, and milo, and may occasionally damage turfgrasses. Chinch bugs prefer to feed on grass growing in full sun; they avoid shady spots.2

The destructiveness of chinch bugs is attributable, in part, to their gregarious nature. Not only do large numbers aggregate on certain plants, but they also disperse in tremendous numbers from filed to field. Their numbers may peak twice: in June and again in August. In warm climates they may be active in winter.



The tiny black and white chinch bugs overwinter as adults. Overwintering bugs tend to form large colonies. Chinch bugs lay their eggs behind the leaf sheath, the lower part of the leaf that grasps the stem. After the eggs hatch, the immature bugs, called nymphs, feed and grow for about 40 days. Nymphs are red with white stripes across the back, becoming gray or brown with age. Two generations a year usually occur.1

Biological and Chemical Control

Chinch bugs are surface feeders and are easily controlled if diagnosed early. The most severe damage occurs when the problem is not noticed until large sections of the lawn have died. Maintain healthy soil and turf; do not over fertilize. Slow-release nitrogen fertilizers are recommended. Remove thatch layers that exceed 1/2 inch in depth. Use citrus oil spray. On plants heavily infested by nymphs or adults, use granular and liquid insecticides. Direct liquid insecticides to the base of the plants, a location favored by these pests.4

Picture of chinch bug nymphs and adults

References

  1. Insights From Insects: What Bad Bugs Can Teach Us. Gilbert Waldbauer
  2. Destructive Turfgrass Insects: Biology, Diagnosis, and Control. Daniel A. Potter
  3. Texas bug book: the good, the bad & the ugly. Howard Garrett, C. Malcolm Beck
  4. Encyclopedia of entomology. John L. Capinera
  5. Scotts lawns: your guide to a beautiful yard. Nick Edward Christians, Ashton Ritchie




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