Friday, October 26, 2012

Kudzu Bug Spreads Across Alabama

Close up of a kudzu bug adult.
I have been hearing about the kudzu bug spreading across the state for some time, but this week I met the insect face-to-face.  At a training meeting in Auburn, there was a lot of talk of kudzu bugs among other extension agents and specialists.  On a trip to the Auburn Wal-Mart, I saw a number of the bugs swarming around my truck.  This was the first time I’d actually seen the bug, and there were several of them swarming on the cab.   
The bugs are olive green to brownish with a squared tail, and they are about the size of an Asian lady beetle.  Kudzu bugs are native to Asia.  It was first detected in northeastern Georgia in October 2009.  Now it has spread throughout Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, and moved into Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, Mississippi and Virginia.  No one seems to know how they got into the country.  They are nuisance stink bugs that secrete a foul odor that can stain wall coverings, fabrics and skin.

There might be one upside to the kudzu bug, researchers have found that the bugs can reduce kudzu vine growth by one-third.

In Alabama, kudzu bugs were first discovered in two counties in 2010. By the next year, they were reported in eight counties, and this year reports confirm them in 43 counties.  I have checked some kudzu patches in Double Springs, and I did not find a single kudzu bug.  They may not be here yet, but this may be the last kudzu bug-free year that we have.  There is little doubt that they will arrive in this area soon since they have already been reported in neighboring Cullman County.  Kudzu bugs are excellent hitchhikers landing on people, vehicles and buildings, plus, they are good fliers and can fly long distances.
Kudzu bugs were busy eating plants all summer. As the name would suggest, they like kudzu, but they also move into other crops such as soybeans and green beans. They seem to be particularly active in exploring different plants in spring before leafing of kudzu and in later fall to get the last meal before overwintering.  Triggered by the approaching cooler temperatures, they are actively leaving their usual host plants to look for places to spend the winter.  Where would that be?  Your home and home garden are nice cozy habitats for overwintering.  Once on the move, the adults particularly like congregating in masses on light-colored surfaces.  During the day they also like to gather in masses in the shade portion of structures regardless of color.  This mass migration has caused complaints and inquiries to Extension offices.

What should homeowners do to prevent an invasion?

Exclusion is the better answer. Exclusion means sealing and caulking very well, particularly around windows, doors and areas where piping, such as water spigots or air conditioner lines, enter the house. Also, tight sweeps on the bottoms of doors and good screen maintenance will help limit entry into the house.

If homeowners choose to use an insecticide, any pyrethroid insecticide applied directly to the bugs can kill them. Most insecticides available for purchase by consumers are effective at killing the bugs. Homeowners must read and follow the product’s label. It is the law.

Even with use of well-timed insecticides and all the caulking and tightening you can do, if these bugs are interested in your house, some of them will find their way in. Remember, they all come with an offensive odor so treat them with care! Do not crush them as they can emit offensive odor and cause stains. The best way to remove them is to vacuum them up. A wet/dry vacuum works best, as odors can linger in a traditional vacuum. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of dishwashing detergent per gallon of water then add a few gallons to the vacuum canister. The detergent and water will drown any kudzu bugs you vacuum up. If you have to use a traditional vacuum, be sure to throw away the bag as soon as you are done.

For more information on kudzu bugs, give us a call at 489-5376.  

Photo credits:  Photo 1:  Joe Eger, Dow Agroscience, Photo 2:
Jeremy Greene, Clemson University,, Distribution Map:
The University of Georgia