False Chinch Bug

Overview of false chinch bugs

False chinch bugs are not a common pest in Iowa. Outbreaks have been noticed only 3 times in the last 20 years. When outbreaks do occur, large numbers or “swarms” of these tiny insects are observed in yards, fields, fencerows and gardens. Outbreaks are associated with dry weather.

Soybean leaves killed by false chinch bugs
Soybean leaves killed by false chinch bugs

Description of false chinch bugs

False chinch bug nymphs are quite small, 2-3 mm long, and pointed-oval in shape. They appear orangish or reddish brown, especially on the abdomen. Toward the sides and front of the abdomen are the wing pads that have black tips. The shiny thoracic segments are mottled tan and black on top, but with a noticeable white line down the middle of the segments. The head is black with reddish-brown, beady eyes bulging to the sides. The head comes to a point in front of the eyes, and the slender beak extends backward from the point along the insect’s underside. The four-segmented antennae are prominent.

The adults are similar in shape and head characteristics and are 3.5 mm long. The front half of the adult appears plain black. The wings are white to clear and extend slightly beyond the end of the abdomen. Two or three tiny black spots are present on each wing on a diagonal line 2/3rds of the way back.

Life cycle and damage caused by false chinch bugs

False chinch bug is a “general feeder” that feeds on sap from a variety of host plants, including vegetables, weeds and other plants. Samples sent to ISU have been from soybean, alfalfa, set-aside acres, fencerows, gardens and lawns. Sap feeding damage by this pest generally appears as wilting and death of the plant leaves. Symptoms may vary greatly among host plants.

This insect has 4 or 5 generations per summer. Eggs are laid on foliage or soil and hatch in 4 days. Nymphs feed and grow for about 3 weeks before transforming to adults. Populations build in spring and early summer among “weeds and other uncultivated plants.” The bugs migrate into crops when the original host plants become less succulent. Winter is spent in both the adult and nymph stages.

Thresholds for this insect are not known, but in drought-stressed fields and vegetable crops, presence of large populations and apparent damage might warrant treatment. Insecticide selection would vary with the crop or treatment site. For information on garden insecticides please see this article.

Do you live in Iowa and have an insect you would like identified?

The Iowa State University Plant & Insect Diagnostic Clinic will identify your insect, provide information on what it eats, life cycle, and if it is a pest the best ways to manage them.  Please see our website for current forms, fees, and instructions on preserving and mailing insects.   

Contact information for each states diagnostic laboratory for U.S. residents.  If you live outside of Iowa please do not submit a sample without contacting the Plant & Insect Diagnostic Clinic.  

Links to this article are strongly encouraged, and this article may be republished without further permission if published as written and if credit is given to the author, Yard and Garden, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. If this article is to be used in any other manner, permission from the author is required. This article was originally published on September 12, 2016. The information contained within may not be the most current and accurate depending on when it is accessed.