How To Get Rid of Chinch Bugs in Florida

Grass with chinch bug damage
July 6, 2022

Florida is known for its beautiful, tropical warm weather that attracts people from all over the country year-round. Unfortunately, humans aren’t the only ones who enjoy this nice weather. Florida falls victim to invasions of many pests throughout the year including mosquitoes, cockroaches, termites, and, of course, chinch bugs. 

If you’re reading this blog, chances are, you have or suspect a chinch bug problem and it’s time to learn what they are, what they can do, and how to get rid of them.

What Are Chinch Bugs?

Chinch bugs are small insects found predominantly in the lawns and gardens within the United States. There are several types of chinch bug including:

  • Common chinch bug
  • Hairy chinch bug
  • Southern chinch bug
  • Western chinch bug

What Do Chinch Bugs Look Like?

Chinch bugs are typically dark red or brown in color with a distinctive white band crossing the center of their bodies. They are so small that they are only about the size of the tip of a ballpoint pen, making chinch bug identification difficult in the vastness of your lawn or garden. Their diets mainly consist of heavily fertilized grass, but can also expand to agricultural crops.

Life Cycle Of Chinch Bug

Chinch bugs have three life stages:

  • Egg— Their first stage consists of 1/32” white eggs that will turn orange as they mature. 
  • Nymphal— As they begin to turn orange, they are slowly entering the nymphal stage where they will eventually grow to ⅛” large. 
  • Adult— When they reach their adult stage, they will turn into their familiar dark coloring and develop their highly identifiable wings that cause a white band around the center of their bodies with black spots at the end.

Chinch bugs generally hibernate during the winter and emerge in the spring when temperatures begin to warm up. For southern states like Florida, Texas, and Mississippi, chinch bugs do not have this hibernation period as the weather is warm all year-round. However, they do not live longer than a few months. Once they mature, they will begin to feed on their preferred diet of grass and crops, and shortly thereafter they will begin to mate. They will lay eggs in the lawns in which they feed, and the cycle will begin again. 

Chinch Bugs vs False Chinch Bugs

Not all chinch bugs are alike. The false chinch bug is a small, similar-looking pest that prefers to feed on crops and pastures, causing a major headache for farmers nationwide. They will also feed on new growing leaves in the pastures, preventing them from having the opportunity to grow and yield crops. False chinch bugs are given that name because they look very similar to other bugs in their insect family and cause similar damage with different dietary habits.

How to Tell If I Have Chinch Bugs

It’s important to know the signs of a chinch bug infestation. Pest management experts suggest using the hands-and-knees method to look through and under thatch around the base of your grass throughout June and July. Where there are a few chinch bugs, there are often many, and it’s time to take action.

Where Are Chinch Bugs Found?

Chinch bugs are commonly found throughout North America. There are two species of chinch bugs commonly found in the U.S.: hairy chinch bugs and the southern chinch bug. Some chinch bugs, such as the southern chinch bug, are self-explanatorily found in the U.S. South, whereas hairy chinch bugs are more commonly found in the North. 

They are most commonly found in non-aerated lawns with a lot of sun exposure. They love heavily fertilized grass and thick thatch layers, making them one of the most infamous pests in Florida. 

Chinch Bug Damage

The most common sign of chinch bugs is lawn damage. Since their diet is primarily grass, they will suck the nutrients from your lawn and then further damage the grass blade with their poisonous saliva. This causes the grass to die, creating brown patches in your yard. 

Unfortunately, the damage chinch bugs inflict isn’t immediately noticeable. While they’re active during the height of summer, you won’t begin to see the effects until the end of the season and sometimes into the autumn months. Dry, hot weather will exacerbate the brown appearance of the damaged grass.

What Attracts Chinch Bugs?

Chinch bugs are particularly attracted to excess nitrogen which is an ingredient found in fertilizer. To reduce your odds of dealing with a chinch bug infestation, look for a fertilizer that is low in nitrogen. 

Chinch Bug Treatment

If you are wondering how to get rid of chinch bugs, follow some of these simple steps to help to remove chinch bugs from your lawn:

  • Insecticides—Most store-bought insecticides will kill chinch bugs but it’s important to double-check both if they handle the pest and what necessary steps to take before treating your lawn, including mowing and/or watering.
  • Diatomaceous Earth—This is an eco-friendly option that is made from pulverized fossils. It consists of microscopic, razor-sharp particles that kill insects on contact. It can also dehydrate insects as a way to kill them.
  • Soap Treatment—Dish soap can be an effective DIY treatment for your lawn. This method is a pet-and-child-friendly way to treat bugs in your yard. It can also be placed in your vegetable and fruit garden without causing harm to your crops. Just mix 1 cup water, 1 teaspoon dish soap, and 1 teaspoon neutral oil in a spray bottle and spray on the affected areas.
  • Predatory Insects—Not all bugs are bad bugs. Insects such as ants and ladybugs actually feed on the microscopic chinch bug, so an abundance of these in your lawn is a good sign that they’re doing their job.
  • Essential Oils—You can use essential oils to kill and ward off many insects, including chinch bugs. You can mix vinegar with essential oils such as peppermint, lavender, cinnamon, and/or citrus in a spray bottle and spray it throughout your yard to ward off unwelcome guests.
  • Watering—Since chinch bugs prefer hot, dry lawn conditions, watering your lawn in excess can help prevent them from showing up. However, it’s important to not flood your lawn as it can cause a whole slew of other issues.
  • Thatch Removal—Chinch bugs love to hibernate in thatch during the off-season, so disrupting the thatch within your lawn will stop the issue at its source.
  • Reseed— It’s important to reseed the areas that are affected by chinch bugs. Endophyte-enhanced seeds are recommended by experts because they contain properties that both help them repel insects and fungal diseases.
  • Mowing—Mowing your lawn often or to a shorter height can cause unnecessary stress on your grass, so be sure to cut no more than a third of the blade of grass at a time.

Healthy grass is a lot less susceptible to lawn pests and diseases, so make sure to establish a consistent lawn routine that works for you and your yard.

Get Professional Lawn Care

If you want to get rid of chinch bugs once and for all, it’s time to call the professionals. Many professional lawn care companies offer chemical control services to exterminate and prevent pest infestations on your lawn. Insecticide treatments come in a variety of types, options, and methods, so it’s important to consult someone with the know-how to use them on your lawn both efficiently and tactfully to keep you and your loved ones safe.

If you are looking for a reliable lawn and pest company, contact Deans Services today!

FAQ About Chinch Bugs

Handling chinch bugs is all about knowing your stuff. Below, we’ve included a handful of commonly asked questions that can help you further understand how to handle a chinch bug infestation and if you’re in a heavily affected area.

How Do You Get Rid of Chinch Bugs in St. Augustine Grass?

You have an array of options to get rid of chinch bugs in St. Augustinegrass, including cultural and chemical control. If you prefer to not use insecticide, excessive lawn watering, lawn aeration, and allowing your grass to grow tall are all techniques you can use to deter chinch bugs from entering your yard. If the issue has grown to overtake most of your yard, then it’s time to use chemical treatments. You can DIY a chemical treatment using products at your local lawn care supply, but it’s best to enlist the help of a professional to ensure your lawn stays healthy in the process.

When to Treat Chinch Bugs in Florida?

It’s time to treat chinch bugs in Florida beginning as early as springtime. Since they come out of hibernation during this time, getting ahead of their schedule by deploying either cultural or chemical control can prevent the problem before it even begins.

What Areas of Florida are Affected by Chinch Bugs?

Chinch bugs are particularly attracted to lawns in central to southern Florida. They can cause year-round damage due to the direct sunlight and warm weather of this region.

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