First documented in the US in 2009 in Northeast Georgia, the Kudzu bug made its first appearance in Okaloosa County in 2013. Similar to stink bugs, it discharges an odor when disturbed. This odor emission can irritate the skin and eyes.
Today’s article, written by Jennifer Bearden, UF/IFAS Agriculture Agent in Okaloosa County, provides information on this new insect.
A pest that attacks kudzu sounds pretty good but this bug also attacks wisteria, figs and legumes like beans and peas. It’s a serious pest to soybeans that are grown in our area. Kudzu bugs are small (3.5-6mm long), rounded oblong in shape and olive-green in color. They lay egg masses in two rows of 13 to 137 eggs per row. The first generation prefers to feed on kudzu but subsequent generations will feed and lay eggs on other legumes. During fall, adults over-winter where they can find shelter. This includes under tree bark and in cracks in houses.
If kudzu bugs make their way into your home, you can vacuum them up and dispose of them. If they are in your landscape or garden, you can set up a trap using a bucket of soapy water and a piece of white poster board. They are attracted to lighter colors. To make the trap, cut the poster board in half. Attach the two halves by cutting a line up the middle of the two pieces and inserting them into each other. They should be in the shape of a plus sign. Place the board over the bucket of soapy water. As the insects hit the board, they fall into the soapy water and drown.
Insecticides can be used but timing and placement are important. Kudzu bugs are just becoming active making now a good time to spray kudzu host plants with an insecticide. Insecticides with active ingredients ending in “-thrin” such as pyrethrin, cyfluthrin, etc., are effective against kudzu bugs. Always read and follow label directions and precautions when using any pesticide. Controlling kudzu near your house will help decrease the number of bugs but they are strong flyers and can migrate through neighborhoods that aren’t near kudzu.
Natural enemies/predators that attack kudzu bug nymphs include green lacewings, lady beetles, damsel bugs and big eye bugs. Additionally, two parasitoids, both discovered in 2013, include a tiny wasp that develops in the kudzu bug eggs and a fly that lays its eggs in the adult kudzu bug.
Kudzu bugs are opportunistic and we have yet to see how many different plants species may serve as a host for this pest.
A photo of the kudzu bug trap is available at blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/okaloosaco.
Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, Okaloosa County, May 16, 2014