What are chinch bugs?

If you have beautiful and healthy St. Augustine grass and hear the name “chinch bug,” you might panic or may be unaware of what kind of threat it has to your lawn. Now that the hot weather has arrived, it can be easy to forget that household pests aren’t the only ones looking for food and shelter. Lawn insects are looking for the same thing too.  You may be wondering – what are they? What can they do to my lawn? We’re here to tell you!

Chinch Bugs

Chinch bugs are tiny, hard-to-see insects that cause lawn damage which can often be confused with drought stress.

When these lawn bugs are young, they are red in color but as they mature to adults, they turn black and have a white spot on their back in the shape of an “X.” Adults grow to be about a quarter inch long.

According to University of Florida, chinch bugs have the ability to fly but only a small portion of the population appears to utilize flight as a means for traveling. Most of the time, these pesky lawn bugs move from lawn to lawn within a neighborhood by walking from a heavily infested area to a fresh area to feed. Interesting fact: during relocation, they can cover over 400 feet in under and hour.

These insects can be found almost anywhere in a lawn with St. Augustine grass. However, they are usually found in hot, dry locations such as along sidewalks or driveways. You can often see them by examining the grass near the surface of the soil. They live in groups or aggregations, which helps when trying to detect an infestation.


Throughout most states, these pests are active from April through October and adults will sometimes hibernate in the winter. However, in Florida, these pests are present year-round due to the warm climate.

The stages of chinch bugs from larvae to adult. These lawn bugs have eight stages of life.
Figure 1: The life cycle of the chinch bug from egg to adult.

Where can I find these lawn bugs on my grass?

Individuals are found within the thatch layer (the layer between the grass and the soil). However, when there is a large population, they can be found resting on leaf blades or crawling across the lawn.

Why are chinch bugs a problem?

Believe it or not, these tiny lawn pests cause millions of dollars in damage per year as homeowners seek to control outbreaks by applying treatments and replacing damaged grass. These pests suck the juices from grass blades and inject toxins back into the leaf blade causing the grass to die. 

What does chinch bug damage look like?

As you can see below, symptoms appear as irregular patches of lawn that resemble drought stress. These areas gradually turn yellow, then brown and then the grass dies.

The dead grass will have a yellowing on the outside margin and the growth of the yellow grass will be stunted. Weeds will begin filling in the dead areas. 

When you see your lawn begin to look like the image below, it’s important to never rule out the damage could be from chinch bugs. More often, people will confuse this with lawn diseases such as brown patch fungus.

chinch bug

Are there any additional side effects that my lawn may have from this lawn insect?

The worst side effect your lawn can have is that the grass can die – which means you’ll need to have your turf grass replaced. However, your lawn can also suffer from uncontrollable weeds due to chinch bugs.

The University of Florida conducted a study on weed infestations occurring in St. Augustine grass lawns that are infested with these lawn insects.

The results of their study led to the conclusion that chinch bug damage to lawns with St. Augustine grass provides an opportunity for weeds to become established. The university highly suggests weed suppression to prevent this lawn damaging pests.

How do I look for proof of these insects?

The easiest way to check for these lawn insects is to part the grass adjacent to dead or dying regions of your lawn and search the thatch layer.

You can also check the undersides of grass stolons (root systems that spread above the ground) and the soil surface.

If comfortable, you can also remove a section of your grass and whip it against a white surface, such as a piece of paper, to easily spot and count the insects.

It’s recommended to contact a professional to conduct a thorough inspection to determine if there is an infestation.

How do I get rid of chinch bugs?

Once you have a chinch bug problem, it can be hard for homeowners to get rid of them. It’s suggested that you contact a professional to apply treatments to active infestations.

It’s important to know that these lawn bugs have the ability to develop resistance to insecticides and can overcome host plant resistance. Additionally, applied insecticides only kill nymphs and adults.

Therefore, eggs can still hatch and produce another generation that can feed on your grass.  If you’re unsure if you have a chinch bug problem, contacting a professional is the best way to go!

How can I prevent chinch bugs?

Properly maintaining your lawn through regular maintenance and proper healthcare is one thing you can do to prevent chinch bugs from attacking your St. Augustine grass or other type of turf grass. This includes proper nutrition/watering and weed/disease control.

Vigorous and actively growing lawns are able to better withstand weeds and lawn insects compared to lawns that are weak or slow-growing.

Ultimately, partnering with a professional to help prevent them can be the best way to go especially if you’re suspicious of chinch bug activity in your lawn. A professional can ensure your lawn receives proper fertilization and irrigation to greatly reduce the likelihood of these invasive pests. 

Our professionally trained experts know what to do to help you prevent and eliminate of chinch bugs in your lawn. For more information on Massey Services chinch bug prevention and lawn services, click here to schedule your free no-obligation inspection.