How to Identify and Get Rid of Chinch Bugs in Your Memphis Lawn

Lawn pests can be one of the biggest frustrations that homeowners face with their healthy and thriving lawns. That’s because you can do everything right—fertilize your lawn, water it regularly, and address any weed problems—and then pests can still come along and damage your turf.
Fortunately, there are solutions.

In this article, we’ll look specifically at chinch bug damage, which is a common problem here in Memphis, TN. We’ll discuss how to tell if you have chinch bugs and also what you can do to get rid of them.

It all boils down to the fact that we want to help you have the most success with your lawn and avoid problems when you can.

What is a Chinch Bug?

Chinch bugs are surface-feeding lawn insects that are “tiny but mighty.” An adult is typically no longer than 1/6 inch.

chinch bugs on blade of grass

Chinch bugs have blackish-grey bodies with fine hairs and white wings. Their wings have a distinctive triangular mark but because they’re so small, you may never see those details (at least not without a magnifying glass).

The biggest issue with chinch bugs is that they feed on lawns in both the nymph and adult stages. They do this by sucking the fluids out of your grass blades. As this occurs, they also inject a toxin into the grass that will cause it to turn yellow or brown and eventually die.

While you might not spot the actual pests in your lawn, you will likely spot chinch bug damage (which we’ll talk about next). It’s usually the damage that alerts homeowners to a problem. A chinch bug infestation may bring a whopping 200 pests per square foot of turfgrass to your lawn. In these large numbers, they can do a lot of damage to your healthy turf.

How to Tell if You Have Chinch Bugs

One of the biggest problems with chinch bug damage is that it can mimic other problems. To you, your lawn might just look yellowed or even brown in spots. To a lot of homeowners, this indicates that there’s a problem with watering. They might assume their lawn is suffering from drought stress and they need to water it more.

dead grass

But watering is obviously not going to help a chinch bug problem.

One way that homeowners are alerted to the fact that it’s actually chinch bug damage (not drought), is when watering doesn’t do anything. If your lawn does not start to green back up after watering, you’ll know that it probably wasn’t an issue with drought.

Searching with a Magnifying Glass

Since chinch bug damage is not easy to identify, you can also do some investigation work to try and determine if it’s a chinch bug issue or some other lawn problem.

If you get down on your hands and knees in the grass, you might be able to spot them. It will help to have a magnifying glass as chinch bugs are pretty tiny (as we mentioned, an adult is only 1/6 inch long!).

Search in the fringe of the grass (where the brown grass borders the still-healthy green grass) as this is where the pests will be lurking.

Try the “Float Test”

You can also use the “tin can” or “float test.”

  • Get a can that has had both ends removed (a coffee canister would work well).
  • Stick the can in that fringe area of the lawn where chinch bugs would be likely to be feeding.
  • Fill the can three-quarters of the way full of water.
  • Observe while continuing to add water to maintain that level.
  • Stir the turf that is underwater to attempt to bring chinch bugs up, out of the grass.
  • If you do have chinch bugs, they’ll float to the top of the water.

How to Get Rid of Chinch Bugs in Your Lawn

Since these pests are so destructive, you likely also want to know how you can kill chinch bugs.

Early detection is definitely key to successful lawn insect control with any pest (and it’s no different with chinch bugs). When you spot a problem early, you can get it under control quickly.

lawn care technician sprays grass for chinch bugs

At Master Lawn, we utilize an all-in-one type of product that is both curative and preventative in nature. It will take care of an existing chinch bug problem and also provide you with future protection against another invasion.

But we can’t stress enough how important it is to spot a problem early before your lawn becomes decimated.

We know this puts a lot of pressure on the homeowner—but it doesn’t have to! If you find the right lawn care partner, that responsibility is shared.

lawn care technician inspects lawn with client

This is one reason why having a lawn care professional visiting your property as part of a lawn care program is beneficial. They’ll notice signs of a problem before you may have even had a chance to.

But if something goes wrong in-between visits and you notice a problem, you’ll also have access to a professional for help with diagnosing what’s going on. At Master Lawn, we always urge our clients to text us if they spot an issue on their lawn. We can help them to diagnose the issue and get the proper solution underway. Whether it’s how to get rid of chinch bugs in your lawn—or something else entirely—we can help.

Repairing Chinch Bug Damage

In some cases, there is chinch bug damage that needs to be repaired.

As we mentioned, a chinch bug problem isn’t usually spotted until after some damage has already been done, so you may need to do a little repair work (particularly if your lawn turned brown and died in areas).

technician performs lawn aeration with ride on aerator

Lawn aeration and overseeding can do wonders in areas where your lawn suffered from chinch bug damage.

Creating a Healthy Lawn that Resists Damage

At the end of the day, the hope is to prevent as many of these issues as you can. While some pest problems are unavoidable, spotting them early will make a world of difference in terms of how your lawn fares.

On top of that, implementing a lawn care program that helps to produce a thick and healthy lawn will also help you to resist pests naturally. When your lawn is already thinned out and struggling, any damage from insects is really going to show (and your lawn problems will only seem to compound).

Along with that, you should know that a thick layer of thatch can actually attract chinch bugs. So, to prevent these pests in the first place, keeping that thatch layer in check is important.

Lawn Care Services - Master Lawn


When you take these steps, you can be successful in maintaining a healthy and thriving lawn, even when there are pests out there that try to destroy it!

You can stop bugs from eating your grass by partnering with a professional who will have your back. At Master Lawn, we want you to be able to feel confident in knowing we will help get your pest problem (or any other issues that arises) under control before it gets serious. Instead of worrying about bugs causing you trouble, you can get back to enjoying your lawn to the fullest.

Want to feel confident that lawn insects won’t destroy your Memphis, TN lawn? Talk to a lawn care expert, choose from 3 program options, and become the master of your lawn.

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Image Source: Cinch bugs

Joey Steele, Lawn & Plant Health Care Manager

Since 2004, Joey has been using his B.S. in Landscape Construction and his turf and ornamental certifications to transform properties in our area. He loves seeing the fruit of his team's hard work and enjoys the many relationships he's formed since joining our team in 2008. He's an Olive Branch, MS native and enjoys spending time with his wife and three young boys, fishing and going to football games.

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