How to Identify Chinch Bugs and Chinch Bug Damage in St Augustine Grass Lawns


By Rick Orr
Chinch bugs with damage on St AUgustine grass

St Augustine's #1 Pest: Chinch Bugs

The most widely used turf species in Pinellas County is St Augustine grass. It has a lot of great qualities: dark green color, thick uniform growth, easy to establish, and more. But it has this one huge downside:  chinch bugs. Why are they so troublesome? Because they are lethal. Chinch bug damage is so complete, that there is no recovery - the lawn is dead and must be replaced.

How to Recognize Chinch Bugs

Chinch bugs are small, little  1/8" - 1/4" bugs that live in your lawn near the base of the leaf. They kill the grass by their feeding and injecting a toxin into the leaf causing the leaf to turn banana yellow and then paper bag brown. Finding chinch bugs in the lawn is tough - they are small and fast and when exposed to light they make a beeline for the nearest cover.

Chinch bug damage to a St Augustine lawn
Chinch bugs often start along edges and move into the lawn.

How to tell if you have Chinch Bugs

Chinch bug damage mimics water stress and water stress mimics chinch bugs. Many confuse the two. Often what was water stress often turns into a chinch bug problem. Poor irrigation will trigger a chinch bug population explosion and what didn't die from water stress, the chinch bugs will kill. Rarely will you find chinch bug damage in a well-irrigated lawn.

Chinch bug damage does have a few distinct characteristics. Chinch bug damage will have yellow leaves between dead and green grass areas. The dead grass is paper-bag brown in color and has a scorched look to dead plants. Often there is an incomplete kill - you'll always find a few sprigs of surviving grass in the dead grass like wounded survivors on a battlefield. Although chinch bugs can attack anywhere in the lawn, they will most likely start along the edge of a sidewalk or driveway.

What to do If you have Chinch Bugs

Should you suspect chinch bugs, first check the irrigation and repair as needed and then apply a good insecticide to the whole area and beyond the dead grass by 10 feet. Don't be surprised if the dead areas grow after treatment - even though the chinch bugs are dead - their toxin lives on and takes days to kill, spreading for days after treatment.

The best advice is to get a good lawn spraying company - if you had chinch bugs once, you'll always have them.

Rick Orr Owner-Staff Agronomist Barefoot Grassl/Creator of ILOVETURF.COM
Staff Agronomist at Barefoot Grass

Since 1995, Rick Orr has worked in Pinellas County providing turf management and pest control. Rick Orr is a graduate of VA Tech in Agronomy (Turf Ecology) and the creator of 

Since graduating from VA Tech in 1979, Rick worked in the green industry, mostly with golf courses, resorts, and large communities. Rick has obtained certifications in arboriculture, landscape, irrigation, and taught Environmental Horticulture at St Petersburg College. 

Currently, Rick is the Staff Agronomist at Barefoot Grass in Largo, FL. To learn more about Barefoot Grass Free Price Quote from Barefoot Grass for Home Pest Control and/or Lawn Care 

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