Chinch Bug

Facts, Identification & Control

Scientific Name

Blissus spp.

Appearance / Identification

What Are Chinch Bugs?

Adult chinch bugs are small insects that have a hard body; two pairs of wings that are folded over the insect’s back; and are distinctly colored in spotted combinations of black, white or red. Many chinch bugs have different coloration in their early nymphal and later nymphal stages. Most species that cause serious crop and turf damage are only about 1/8 to ¼ inch long and have mouthparts that are used to pierce into the plant and suck out plant juices. The most destructive are the Blissus species that may seriously damage wheat, corn, oats and various kinds of turf grasses.

Behavior, Diet, Habits

Typical chinch bug habitats are agricultural crops, native grasses, weeds and lawns. The more common species of chinch bugs and their preferred turf grasses are:

  • The western chinch bug – Kentucky bluegrass, ryegrass, fescues and zoysia grass.
  • The hairy chinch bug – Kentucky bluegrass, English ryegrass, red fescues, and bent grass.
  • The Southern chinch bug – St. Augustine grass, zoysia grass, Bermuda grass, and centipede grass.

Chinch bugs overwinter as adults and emerge in spring to lay eggs on their host plant or in the soil. Eggs hatch within a week and the nymphs begin feeding. Depending on the species and location, chinch bugs will complete two to three generations per year.

Chinch bug damage results from feeding by both nymphs and adults. As the bugs feed, they inject a toxin that interferes with the plant’s ability to get moisture and nutrients from the soil. The result is wilting and damage to the plant’s tissues that are needed for survival and growth. In lawns, the damage looks like spots of grass that has yellowed or turned brown. Sunny locations are normally the most seriously affected and the homeowner may think that draught conditions are causing the grass to die.

More Information

If you suspect your lawn is suffering from chinch bug damage, contact your pest management professional for sound advice and recommendations since lawn damage may be the result of dry conditions or another type of turf insect. Your pest management professional will know how to inspect for and sample your lawn to determine what is causing the problems. If the damage is insect related, your pest management professional will know what techniques will resolve the problems. Also, if insecticides are needed for control, your pest management professional will know what to use, when to apply and what safety precautions are required.

For the homeowner that wants to apply some proactive measures, the following will help:

  • Use turf grass practices that keep your lawn healthy – irrigate and fertilize when necessary.
  • Remove thatch – chinch bugs prefer lawns that have large amounts of thatch.