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Chinch Bug Lawn Damage

While grubs were discussed in my last post and are the most widely known lawn pest, little is known about the equally (if not more) damaging chinch bug.  I just visited a lawn this week and found the homeowner perplexed over the spotty brown patches amongst tufts of still green grass. (That’s his lawn in the photograph!) He thought he had a grub problem or that perhaps even hot weather lead to his now defunct lawn.
There are a few easy indicators to help distinguish chinch bug damage from grub damage.  First, grubs are underground/subsurface, while chinch bugs are surface/above the ground.  These differences are important, as the kind of lawn damage each pest renders is uniquely their own!
Grubs chew off grass roots and cause it to easily peel up in chunks, sometimes in large areas. In contrast, surface chinch bugs pierce and suck grass blade juices.  Unlike grub damage, chinch bug leave the grass dry, yet well rooted.  Chinch bug damage looks like razor stubble, with tufts of dead grass on the surface. Chinch bugs are truly vampires as they suck the life out of your lawn from within, leaving brown grass in their wake as they move onto fresh grass.
Chinch bugs are very small and not easily seen. If you suspect chinch bug damage, the only way to confirm is to find the villains. Adult chinch bugs are coming out of their winter hibernation right now. The adults have a white diamond on their backs, the rest of their small bodies are black.  Adult chinch bugs should be sprayed because they will not go away.  In fact, if left untreated, their population will continue to expand causing even more damage in consecutive years.
While grub populations may rise and fall from year to year, if you have a chinch bug infestation, your lawn is literally doomed without proper treatment.  I’ve met countless homeowners who found out the hard way in year two as their once healthy lawn turned into an ocean of dead, brown grass.  Chinch bug damage, in my opinion, can be the most complete, able to destroy an entire lawn from corner to corner.
The reason lawn damage can be so thorough is because chinch bugs can have up to two generations a year, spring and late summer.  Chinch bug kids, called nymphs, range in bright colors from red to orange and are easier to be seen then their parents.  As the population expands, damage is inflicted each day, week, and month, continuing through early fall.
Chinch bugs, like grubs, prefer sunny lawns.  Chinch bug damage usually requires new loam and reseeding.  The extent of the renovation depends on how quickly the problems is addressed. And if you are doing a lawn renovation, be sure to treat for chinch bugs, because they would love nothing more than more fresh grass to eat.
If you are looking at unusual browning this spring, it may not be drought.  If you noticed your once healthy lawn not doing well, contact your local lawn care professional to diagnose if you have a chinch bug issue.  Acting sooner than later is in the best interest of your lawn and budget!