Meridian Star

November 3, 2013

Kudzu bugs on the move

The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN — By Wayne Porter / Regional Extension Specialist

     What is less than a quarter-inch long, oblong in shape with a dark olive green color, and accumulates in large masses trying to get into people’s homes and businesses? If you said kudzu bug, then you are correct.  

    This recently unknown insect is taking Mississippi (and the southern United States) by storm. The cooler temperature has caused them to move from the kudzu patches and start looking for a place to spend the winter. And your nice warm home is a good spot.

    The kudzu bug, also referred to as the bean plataspid, lablab bug, or globular stink bug, and is related to various species of stink bugs was first reported in October 2009, when large numbers were discovered on the exterior of houses in nine northeast Georgia counties. Before its discovery in Georgia, the kudzu bug was not known to occur in the Western Hemisphere.

    By September 2010, the insect was confirmed in more than 60 north and central Georgia counties as well as limited distributions in North and South Carolina. By 2011 it was reported in Alabama. In 2012 it had spread to Virginia, Tennessee, and Florida.  

    Kudzu bugs were first reported in Montgomery and Warren counties in the spring of 2012 and in Lauderdale County (Meridian) in October 2012.  By September 2013 this insect had been documented in 33 Mississippi counties.

    Kudzu bug adults produce a mildly offensive odor when disturbed. You do not have to mash them like you do with other stinkbugs. If you get the smell on your hands, it takes several applications of soap and water to get some of it off. I think you might need an industrial hand cleaner to effectively wash off the odor.

    The kudzu bug’s preferred host is kudzu in its native Asia. Kudzu appears to be a primary host in North America, but it will also eat wisteria. This insect will continue to spread into most areas where kudzu is established.  

    Eating kudzu and wisteria is not a bad thing. The problem is that kudzu bugs also eat soybeans, southern peas, snap beans, and assorted other desirable plants. Several soybean fields in Mississippi were sprayed this year due to large infestations of this bug.

    This bug can be a nuisance to ordinary homeowners and business owners. As the weather begins to cool this insect seeks secluded sites where they spend the winter. They can accumulate in large numbers around doors, windows, and other openings. I have received numerous calls about thousands of these bugs accumulating on buildings.

     The best control method is to prevent the kudzu bug from entering your home/business. Homeowners should make sure that screens on windows are well-seated and without holes and that soffit, ridge, and gable vents are properly screened. Doors should have a tight seal when closed and door-sweeps under their base.

    Do not be crush any insects that have managed to enter the home, since this may stain indoor surfaces and result in odors that may prove difficult to eliminate. Sweep the kudzu bugs that do get into your home into a dustpan and put them in a bucket of water. If you vacuum them up, they will release their stink into the vacuum canister. That can stay in it for several weeks, so change canister bags as soon as you get through.

    To further reduce entry into your home, you can apply insecticides around doors and windows. You can use any labeled outdoor insecticide to kill them. If you kill large amounts to them, you need to sweep and remove since they will produce a foul odor as they decompose. Their carcasses can also attract ants.