If you've noticed brown patches on your typically green lawn, the culprit could be chinch bugs — tiny insects that feed on grass.

Robert Gallant, owner of Atlantic Graduate Lawn Care and Pest Control, said he's noticed more cases of chinch bugs this year than usual.

"The lawns are really starting to get damaged because of it," said Gallant.

Pesticide

Rob Gallant of Atlantic Graduate Pest Management inspects a lawn that was damaged by chinch bugs. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Atlantic Graduate has been applying for permits to spray pesticides at homes in Stratford that are typically not allowed under the town's cosmetic pesticide bylaw.

Roger Gordon with Pesticide Free PEI says chinch bugs can often be avoided by taking good care of your lawn.

"Lawns don't just look after themselves," said Gordon.

To do what you can to avoid chinch bugs infestations, here are five things to know.

1. Keep grass long

"Don't cut your lawn so that it looks like a putting green, the chinch bugs love that," said Gordon. He recommends cutting your grass so that it's about four centimetres high. Health Canada recommends keeping grass even longer — suggesting keeping it at six to 7.5 cm will reduce stress on the grass.

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Chinch bugs eat the sap of grass plants, leaving yellowed and dead areas. (CBC)

2. Don't over-fertilize

According to Health Canada, chinch bugs are attracted to lawns with excess nitrogen. If you're going to use a fertilizer, don't overdo it, and look for one that's low in nitrogen.

3. Water heavily — but not too often

Chinch bugs like dry grass. Gordon and Health Canada both recommend watering your lawn fairly heavily once a week.

4. Aerate lawn in spring

According to Health Canada, chinch bugs like compacted soil. Aerating your lawn in the spring can help make your grass less welcoming to the critters.

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If you're looking for an environmentally friendly way of getting rid of chinch bugs, try soapy water.

5. Use soap to get rid of chinch bugs

Finally, if you do have chinch bugs and want to get rid of them, there are a few options for dealing with them. If you want to stay pesticide-free, you can try using soapy water as an alternative.