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Identifying Chinch Bugs and false Chinch Bugs
Stacy Campbell
Stacy Campbell

Chinch bugs in Kansas are a perennial pest of just about any type of grass. They have caused problems in turf farms, golf courses, and lawns. In crops, they mainly affect sorghum but are occasionally problematic in corn and wheat, says Jeff Whitworth, K-State Extension Entomologist. 

With all of the chinch bug activity in central and west central Kansas, this is a good time to discuss the differences between chinch bugs (Blissus leucopterus) and false chinch bugs (Nysius sp.). In order to make proper management decisions, knowing how to correctly identify these insects is critical, says Anthony Zukoff, K-State Extension Entomologist”.

Adult chinch bugs are 3-4mm (0.16”) long bugs with black bodies and white wings that are kept folded over their backs. Two dark, triangular markings are present near the center of the wings creating a distinctive “X” mark.

Adult false chinch bugs are very similar in appearance, but smaller. Instead of having black bodies, false chinch bugs are brownish-gray with clear wings that lack a distinct “X” mark, says Anthony.

Immature chinch bugs are bright red after hatching, darkening to black as they go through a series of five molts. A distinct white band will be visible across the nymphs’ bodies until the wing buds become large enough to obscure it.

Immature false chinch bugs are grayish-brown, never bright red, and lack the white band across their bodies.


Chinch bugs and false chinch bugs are true bugs in the order Hemiptera which means they both have piercing-sucking mouthparts that they use to puncture plant tissue to feed on plant juices. However, the symptoms of feeding appear differently for these two bugs. When chinch bugs feed, digestive enzymes are injected into the plant tissue causing it to break down and discolor.  Reddish spots often are present at chinch bug feeding sites. Heavy chinch bug feeding can also cause stunting, wilting and necrotic lesions on plants. False chinch bug feeding, on the other hand, usually has little effect on plants, but extreme numbers of the bugs on a plant can cause wilting and death.

Additional details on life history and management recommendations for these two pests can be found in the following Kansas Crop Pest publications.

Chinch Bug:

False Chinch bug:

Information provided by Anthony Zukoff and Jeff Whitworth K-State Extension Entomologists.  

Stacy Campbell is an Agriculture and Natural Resources agent for Cottonwood Extension District. Email him at or call the Hays office, 785-628-9430.