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Chinch Bugs

picture of a chinch bug

General Facts

Although native to South America, chinch bugs have become common Canadian summer pests. The insects gather in groups of as many as 200 in a square half metre, but often go undetected because of their small size. If untreated, the pests can destroy lawns, plants, and landscaping.

Appearance / Identification

Adult chinch bugs are about 3 to 4 mm in length, with black bodies and white, triangular marks on their backs. Immature chinch bugs, called nymphs, are easier to spot on lawns because of their distinctive bright red colour and white stripe markings. While often confused with the beneficial big-eyed bugs, these pests have two white wings, smaller eyes, and more slender bodies.

Habitat

Chinch bugs are common in Southern and Eastern Canada. The insects seek out grass with thick layers of dead leaves, twigs, and other organic material on top to breed and feed. Woodlands, fields, or residential yards are equally inviting to the pests. Because they crave warm weather, they are especially active between May and August.

Diet

The insects feed on the sap of grasses by piercing stalks at their base. While they prefer bentgrass varieties, chinch bugs will attack other lawn grasses like bluegrass and red fescue.

Life Cycle / Reproduction

In May and June, adult chinch bugs lay eggs, which hatch within three weeks into wingless red nymphs about half the size of a pinhead. Nymphs slowly darken in colour and grow wings as they mature. Adults live an average of 50 days.

Problems Caused by Chinch Bugs

As more chinch bugs hatch and feed, homeowners will notice scattered patches of grass beginning to wilt on warm, dry slopes and near pavement edges. Because the damage they cause is similar to natural drought effects, small infestations often go unnoticed. If left untreated, chinch bugs may destroy entire yards.

Detection / Signs of Infestation

Patches of lawn destroyed by chinch bugs will appear in July or August and spread over the summer. Additionally, the pests can be identified by the strong, unpleasant odour they give off when crushed. Lawns that smell after being mowed or walked on may be infested.

Prevention Tips

Chinch bugs like lawns with dense soil, low moisture, and organic debris on the surface. Maintain lawns by watering them once weekly in the summer and avoid over-fertilizing or cutting grass too short. Raking leaves and grass piles regularly limits nesting places. For those buying new grass, choose insect-resistant species such as tall fescue or rye.

Control / Removal

By the time most homeowners realize they have a problem, common control methods will do little to help. Contact local pest control specialists for safe, hassle-free, and reliable removal of indoor chinch bugs. For outdoor infestations, consult your local garden centre.