Chinch Bugs

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Pest Management Fact Sheet #5009

James F. Dill, Pest Management Specialist
Clay A. Kirby, Insect Diagnostician

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Chinch bugChinch bugs cause serious damage in the thick turf of lawns and golf courses. Dying or dead areas of a lawn can signal the presence of this pest. Dry seasons seem to favor its spread and make its damage more noticeable. Chinch bugs tend to be more of a problem in southern Maine.

Description & Biology

The chinch bug generally produces two generations per year after over-wintering in the adult stage in plant debris, crevices, and thatch. The insect mates early in the season when the temperature reaches 70°F. The female lays eggs on roots, stems and leaves over a two to three-week period. One female can lay as many as 500 eggs.

The newly-hatched bugs–tiny, wingless, bright red nymphs–feed by sucking juices from roots near or at the ground surface. The young bugs turn black as they rapidly grow larger. After 40 to 50 days of voracious feeding, they reach the mature stage and develop wings. The adult chinch bug is shaped like a flattened black and white capsule and is capable of flight.  It is about 1/5 inch. Adults of the first brood usually move to a new area before mating and egg-laying.

Chinch bugs do the greatest damage from mid-summer to early fall. The first generation starts to die in early fall. The second generation hibernates at the approach of cold weather in matted clippings and debris, or in loose soil near the root zone.


A coffee can with both ends cut out can be used to detect the presence of the bugs. Force one end of the can into the soil, fill with water, then watch for chinch bugs to float to the top.

Because they can fly, it is difficult to keep an area free of chinch bugs if they occur in nearby cropland. However, sanitation may reduce over-wintering sites. In addition, both liquid and granular forms of insecticides may be used. Many people prefer liquid spraying since the material must reach the crown area of the grass plant.

The best time to apply a pesticide for chinch bug control is in early June. It is advisable, regardless of the form of insecticide used, to remove any built-up thatch before the application and use enough water to get the pesticide to the feeding zone of the insects. This is a good reason to water turf grass before treatment and apply water to areas that are treated with a granular.

Carbaryl (Sevin), bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, or imidacloprid are registered for chinch bug control. Application rates depend on the size of the area to be treated, so follow the directions on the label.

When Using Pesticides


Pest Management Unit
Cooperative Extension Diagnostic and Research Laboratory
17 Godfrey Drive, Orono, ME 04473
1.800.287.0279 (in Maine)

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© 2016, 2020 | Reviewed: 2023

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