By Bob Dailey
Chinch bugs are tiny creatures - barely visible to the naked eye, but their damage to lawns belies their size. They destroy grass by penetrating grass blades with razor-sharp beaks and then sucking out the juices. The grass then dehydrates and dies.
Chinch bugs love hot areas and begin their journey across a yard by starting at the edge of a driveway or sidewalk – where the ground is absorbing heat. Once they have destroyed the grass along the edge of those hot areas, they progress outward. The damage they do becomes evident in August and September.
Look for dead or dying brown grass alongside your driveway or sidewalk. Take a coffee can, cut out the bottom of it, and insert it into the ground a couple of inches where dead grass and live grass meet. Fill it with water. The chinch bugs will float to the top.
There are several ways to get rid of chinch bugs.
Products that contain Beauvaria bassonia, a fungus, are highly effective against chinch bugs and a long list of other insect pests. Scientists consider the fungus to be harmless to beneficial insects, although they recommend not spraying in areas where honeybees are foraging. The bees themselves won’t become contaminated, but they may carry spores back and infect the brood.
Another organic method contains terpene - entirely harmless to mammals, birds, and fish but deadly to chinch bugs.
Bifenthrin is a neurotoxin (synthetic Pyrethrin) that attacks the nervous system and is highly effective against chinch bugs. This poison exists in nature also - marigolds are a source of natural Pyrethrin. This insecticide, whether synthetic or organisms, control a large number of insect species. It is highly toxic to fish. When used around children or animals, make sure you follow the label instructions carefully. Use with care, according to instructions. Applications include liquid and granular.
Other helpful methods.
Using best lawn care practices is also helpful in chinch bug control. Water by hose once a week along the edges of driveways and sidewalks. Keeping those areas wetter will discourage chinch bugs. Use slow-release fertilizer and compost to keep the soil and lawn healthy and strong.