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Signs of Chinch Bugs

By Erin Ringwald
Dry, yellow patches of grass may be a sign of chinch bugs.
grass image by Thomas Quinlan from Fotolia.com

Chinch bugs are small insects that can pose a threat to the health of your lawn. Usually, chinch bugs are most prevalent during the warmer months of the year. The young chinch bugs, called nymphs, feed off the grass in your lawn. As they eat, they can cause damage to your lawn. Knowing what the signs of chinch bugs are will help you identify a problem early and begin treatment to minimize damage.

Lawn Discoloration

One of the most common signs that chinch bugs have begun infesting your lawn is a color change. According to the University of Florida, you can tell chinch bugs are eating your lawn because the lawn will change from green to colors of yellow or brown. When chinch bug nymphs eat, they suck the fluids from the grass. This will cause the change in color. Usually, the discolored patches have one or more sides of healthy, green grass surrounding them. Since discolored grass is a sign of other lawn issues, such as poor water irrigation, you will need to look for other sings as well.

Dry Lawn

As the chinch bugs suck the fluids from the grass, it not only will become discolored, it will also become dry. According to Beginner Gardening, dry patches are usually found along the edge of your lawn since chinch bugs spend the colder months around shrubs and ground debris. Chinch bug dry areas can also be found along the edge of the sidewalk. If you find patches of dried grass in the center of your lawn, surrounded on all sides by healthy grass, the problem is likely not chinch bugs. It is more likely these patches are caused by canine urine damage or other insects, such as grubs.

Predatory Insects

The University of Florida states that another sign of chinch bugs is the existence of predatory insects. One common predator is the black big-eyed bug. These bugs look like a chinch. They have large bulging eyes and wings. The striped-earwig is another predator. Earwigs have long, flat bodies with wings. They have a stripe down the back of their bodies and limb-like attachments at the back of their bodies that look like pincers. If you find these in your yard, it is a good sign their prey, the chinch bug, is nearby.

Direct Observation

If you have observed lawn discoloration and dry patches along the edge of your lawn, the final sign to look for is the bugs themselves. Chinch bugs measure about 1/6 to 1/5 inch in size as adults. They are black bugs with black triangles on their white wings. Depending on the specific bug their wings may or may not be functional. When they are in the nymph stage, they do not have wings at all and will be either yellow or a reddish pink color. If you cannot easily visualize chinch bugs, but still believe they are there, you can try pouring water mixed with lemon-scented detergent over the discolored dry patch. This will bring the chinch bugs to the surface.