Kudzu Bugs Land in Wakulla County
As if kudzu is not bad enough for Wakulla County and the rest of the south, now there is a kudzu bug. It eats kudzu, but unfortunately it eats many other plants, too.
This pest was discovered in the Sopchoppy area last week populating a citrus tree. Several more samples have been confirmed from other parts of the county during the following days.
Kudzu bugs are native to East Asia and were first detected in northeastern Georgia in October 2009. Research has indicated its introduction into the United States occurred from a single female lineage originating in Japan.
They have quickly established reproducing populations and spread throughout Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, and moved into Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, Mississippi and Virginia.
These pests are excellent hitchhikers which will cling to people and vehicles moving through an infested area. They are also good fliers and can travel long distances.
Individually this nuisance is easy to overlook as they are about the size of a lady bug. Their olive green to brownish color helps individuals blend into any native landscape.
While there is a family resemblance with its squared tail and blunt dome shaped head, Kudzu bugs are not beetles. They are a nuisance stink bugs which secrete a foul odor and are capable of staining a variety of surfaces.
As the name suggest they will dine on kudzu, but will also move into other crops such as soybeans, green beans and other legumes. There is serious concern these exotic pest will be one more recently imported impediment to production of cotton and soybean in the Big Bend Region.
In addition to legumes, they are attracted to a host of ornamental shrubs and native plants. With no known predators in the north Florida, the potential impact on native plants is in question.
Kudzu bugs occupy their summers by busily eating plants. They seem to be particularly active when exploring a diversity of plants in spring before kudzu leafs out and in late autumn to get the last meal before overwintering.
With approaching cooler late autumn temperatures, they actively leave their host plants to overwinter in leaf litter, underneath tree bark and in other protected locations.
Kudzu bugs particularly like congregating in masses on light-colored surfaces during their active season. During the day they also like to gather in masses in the shade portion of structures regardless of color.
Much like stinkbugs, adults will excrete an odor as a defense mechanism when disturbed. The defense chemical these insects secrete is capable of staining the natural or treated surface of the houses and buildings, and will mar the finish on vehicles.
In its native habitat, there are up to three generations of these pests per year. In the warmer latitudes of Wakulla County the reproduction rate may exceed the recorded rate in Asia.
Any pyrethroid based insecticide applied directly to the bugs can kill them. However, the bug’s mobility and their overwhelming numbers make them difficult to control.
To learn more about kudzu bugs and their arrival in Wakulla County contact the UF/IFAS Wakulla County Extension Office at 850-926-3931 or http://wakulla.ifas.ufl.edu/.