Identification and Management of Chinch Bugs in Corn and Sorghum


Chinch bugs have three life stages consisting of egg, nymph, and adult. Eggs are white when freshly laid around the plant base. As the eggs mature, they begin to elongate and become a reddish color before the nymphs emerge. The nymphs undergo molting and experience five different stages. The brown heads and thoraxes darken as the nymph stages progress. Their abdomen begins reddish orange before becoming almost black in the final nymph stage. The steady characteristic feature is a white band across the middle of their body.1 Adults have a black body with white forewings that form an X and grow to about 3/16th of an inch (Figure 1).2

Chinch bug adult with characteristic white forewings forming an X shape. Figure 1. Chinch bug adult with characteristic white forewings forming an X shape.


Damage to corn or sorghum is caused by the nymph stages when they pierce the plant and suck the juices. The feeding occurs near the soil surface as the non-winged nymphs migrate from small grains or grasses to corn or sorghum.3 Heavy infestations cause the lower leaves of the plant to yellow and potentially turn brown. Prolonged feeding results in this symptomology continuing up the plant.2 


Avoiding chinch bugs in corn or sorghum may be accomplished by not planting the crops near small grains such as winter wheat. If your rotation calls for planting near wheat, good management practices should be used within the wheat crop to help maximize stands. Reduced plant populations of small grains or other grasses can serve as an attraction for adult chinch bugs. If a late planting of corn or sorghum is planned, they should not be planted into small grain stubble that was infested with chinch bugs without proper management.2  

Trap crops can serve to stop the migration of chinch bugs from small grains to corn or sorghum. The trap crop can be planted between the fields at a date early enough to allow for emergence prior to the planting of corn or sorghum. This allows for focused scouting and potential chemical chinch bug control in a small area of the trap crop.1  

If cultural control is not an option or was not successful, chemical options are available. These should be based upon population monitoring to determine if economic thresholds have been met. Systemic pesticides at planting may provide protection during the early growth stages. If pest populations persist above threshold, a foliar application may be needed. Many of the labeled insecticide products have a short residual window; therefore, it is important to direct the spray to the base of the plant and maximize coverage to reduce populations. Always read and follow the label directions for safety and to maximize efficacy.2 

Mark Bartel


1Michaud, J.P. and Whitworth, R.J. 2013. Chinch bug. Kansas Crop Pests. MF3107. Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service.

2Wright, R.J.  2013. Chinch bug management. G806. University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension.

3Chinch bug. 2009. Field Crops IPM. Purdue University.

Websites verified 2/21/23

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ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW PESTICIDE LABEL DIRECTIONS. Performance may vary, from location to location and from year to year, as local growing, soil and weather conditions may vary. Growers should evaluate data from multiple locations and years whenever possible and should consider the impacts of these conditions on the grower’s fields.

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