How to Repair Lawn after Chinch Bug Damage?

How to Repair Lawn after Chinch Bug Damage

Chinch bug damage is one of the most common non-climate-related issues turfs will face. Lawns that get full sun and are susceptible to summer heat and drought damage seem to be the most afflicted by these pests and lawn owners in these conditions need to be extra vigilant to save their turfs.

Preventing pests altogether may be impossible, but there are steps to help reduce the damage. 

When chinches first infested my lawn, I was convinced it was fertilizer burn or over-watering, but very soon, I became aware of the odd patterns of browning. Quickly researching what was going on, I found a few ways to stop these tiny insects with white wings and a white stripe.

Lawn experts say that the average lawn has 10 to 15 chinches in a few square feet, but an infested lawn can have a larger population with as many as 100 bugs per foot of turf. These patches of grass will start to succumb to chinch damage, and that’s when you will need to repair your lawn, fast. 

How to Restore Chinch Bug Damaged Turf?

Chinch Bug Damage

If there are yellow and brown spots left over on your lawn from chinch damage, there are still some solutions. The best time to start fixing your turf is when the temperature drops at the end of summer. Chinches do most of their damage when the grass is weak from drought and heat damage. When it starts to cool, they will go dormant or die and no longer drain your grass. Take the time before winter to slow active chinch infestation and repair any damage that has been done to your turf. 

Apply insecticide

The most important thing to do is wait until your lawn has a break with clouds or extra rain and then apply broad-spectrum pesticides to get rid of chinches and any other turf pests causing trouble. BioAdvanced Complete Insect Killer for Soil and Turf is an effective brand, and a single spray can greatly decrease the pest population. Make sure to reapply and spray on sunny spots after 2 weeks to kill any newly hatched nymphs since most pesticides do not harm eggs. 

BioAdvanced Complete Insect Killer for Soil and Turf, Concentrate, 40 oz
  • INSECT KILLER: Army worm killer and kills other listed surface insects including grubs, ants, ticks…
  • 3 MONTH PROTECTION: Kills listed soil insects for up to 3 months
  • USE ON: Soil and turf lawns and around the home
  • PLUS MOSQUITO KILLER: Kills mosquitoes in addition to 30 other outdoor pests

Dethatch

Depending on your type of grass, thatch may or may not be a big issue for your lawn. Lawn pests tend to use thatch to move and live, so removing dead grass piles can control common lawn insects. Chinch bugs live in thatch around grass blades and only go onto the blades to feed.

The eggs are laid underneath the blades, and it can be hard to see them before hot weather, and constant feeding has caused turf damage. An excessive buildup of the thatch layer over the soil can lead to a chinch bug infestation, so removing the thatch can reduce their populations and even helps your entire lawn with water retention. 

Aerate

Before adding an all-purpose lawn fertilizer to your turf, you should grab your aerator for lawn aerating your beautiful lawn. You have time to fix your lawn before winter comes, but you will need to use all the tools at your disposal to get the job done.

If you aerate in the spring before summer, you can prevent turf damage during extreme heat and drought conditions and allow water and fertilizer to penetrate and build a healthy lawn. Treat your entire lawn with a core aerator for regular lawn maintenance and to reverse pest damage. 

Amend Soil

Before trying to grow new grass where lawn pests have been, you will want to beef up the soil to give new plants everything they need to grow thick. If your type of grass needs heavy fertilization, now is the time to load up the soil so your grass will grow and beat out winter weeds.

If chinch bugs have been a problem, cover the new soil with diatomaceous earth (DE) to naturally kill pests like chinches through direct contact. As the eggs hatch and the nymphs crawl to the catch below, the DE will lacerate and dehydrate them. Reapply after watering until you have cleared your lawn of chinch bugs. 

Water Thoroughly

Some southern lawns where chinches are common can also have water restrictions which can make it hard to give your lawn the water it needs to stay green in the summer. If you cannot water every week, try to spray the driest areas of the lawn to prevent chinch buildup.

Parts of the lawn that are in shade or not as dry can forgo some water, allowing you to focus on endangered spots and not the entire lawn. Try to get up to at least an inch a week to help the grass recover, then reduce gradually as damaged lawns heal. 

Overseed with new Turf

Lawn care management often involves resowing seeds along the edges of lawns to keep a fresh lawn growing. To make sure you will have a green lawn in the spring, it is a good idea to overseed the lawn before winter comes. If your climate can handle it, try to sow some perennial ryegrasses, fine fescues, and tall fescues that contain endophytic fungi to build a natural barrier against chinch bugs. If even these grasses go dormant in the heat, they will keep your lawn from becoming infested with these pests. 

Water Regularly 

If you can, during the summer, add water to reduce the chance of chinch damage in hot conditions. Water will need to make it to the foot of lawn growth where the chinches are hiding in order to reduce the population with any reliability. Even a little water kills the nymphs and slows the adults while giving your lawn what it needs to recover from extensive lawn damage. 

Treat Established Lawns for Pests

If you don’t correct lawn insects right away, then everything you needed to do to repair your lawn may happen again. Pest can be an inconvenience to lawns, and to keep your lawn healthy, you will need to incorporate a pest control routine into your lawn care program and look into integrated pest management systems. Otherwise, browned grass and having to save your lawn from patches will be your year-to-year routine. 

Chinch Bugs in Grass Looks Like What?

Damaged Lawn

It is easy to mistake chinch bug damage for drought or fertilizer damage at first. A lush lawn that suddenly starts to slump, turn yellow, then brown, and finally dies follows the formula of most fatal lawn ailments. The main way to tell what is going on with your turf is to note when the healthy grass started to slump or when the yellow patches of lawn appear. 

If the grass is worse after watering, no fertilizer has been added, and the patches originate in the hottest, driest sections of turf, there is a good chance chinch bugs are at work. To find the bugs in action, look at the edge of the damaged grass, where it is still green, and you will see the chinches moving from brown turf to healthy grass. Once you have found the culprits, you can verify with the signs below and then move on to repair the damage fast.

DamageWhat It Looks LikeWhat It Means
Limp BladesSlumps after wateringPlant fluids have been drained
Yellow GrassDiscoloration in the tipsChinch bugs have just started feeding
Dead patchesBrown and flat grassChinches have killed the grass and moved on to other turf

Fixable

Blades of grass can recover from chinch bug damage, but only if you catch it early enough. If the color of grass is just starting to change to yellow, then there is a good chance it is not too late. Once the yellowing starts to turn brown, it becomes less certain that your turf will recover fully. Before investing time and money trying to save a patch of grass that is doomed to die, dig up a small area and see if the roots are still alive. 

Already Dead

Turf that is already brown and has no remaining yellow or green is very unlikely to recover. The exception may be if the turf went dormant and is brown by design, not because of pest damage. Brittle grass is a sure sign that your turf is nearing the end of its life and any remaining energy is probably in the roots. Once the roots die, there is no choice but to remove the patches and resow or resod with new fresh grass. 

What Stops Grass From Regrowing after Chinches?

Damaged Chinch Bug Lawn

The worst thing about chinches is not that they feed on our grass. The problem is that the enzymes chinches release as they feed continue to kill the grass and prevent healing. The toxic effect of chinch bug saliva does more damage to turf than other similar plant pests that just suck the juices without adding the toxins. 

By the time the grass is brown, the chinches have already moved on to new grass, but the turf will continue to die even if watered and attended to. Chinches breed very fast and produce multiple generations in every season. All of the life stages of chinches need to be killed to stop the infestation, or else the next generation will just keep the population going.

Female chinch bugs can lay over 250 eggs in their lifetime, which is around 4 a day. This growth rate is enough to allow these pests to completely spread through a yard that is hot and dry and unprepared for a massive infestation of chinch bugs and the resulting turf damage.

Last update on 2023-02-06 / Affiliate links / Somes Images and Data from Amazon Product Advertising API