Kudzu Bug, a new pest for farmers and homeowners

There have been several reports in the county that kudzu bugs are moving out of soybean fields and congregating on structures including homes, vehicles, and storage buildings. This migration from soybeans and kudzu was expected as adult bugs head into reproductive diapause, or winter sleep. Although movement may be more evident in agricultural areas due to the kudzu bugs’ fondness for soybeans, urban areas may experience kudzu bugs also, as wisteria and privet act as hosts. These insects are quite mobile and have the ability to catch rides on wind currents, automobiles, trains, and even planes. This helps explain why this pest has managed to spread in 3 years from the north-central Georgia area throughout most of South Carolina, North Carolina, into Virginia, and as far west as Mississippi. Kudzu bugs are attracted to light-colored surfaces, but this certainly doesn’t mean that brick buildings or those with dark-colored siding will escape kudzu bug. The kudzu bug tends to assemble on the structures, often moving behind siding and into walls and homes where they can gain access.

As for treatment, most common household insecticides will kill the bugs on direct contact. Preventative control of the kudzu bug by treating the exterior of buildings is likely to produce poor to mediocre results for several reasons. First, most residents do not have the proper equipment to apply an insecticide to high areas of their homes where bugs may congregate. Second, because the insects are actively feeding even in the fall, their movement from soybeans and kudzu may take place over several weeks, meaning several applications may be needed to reduce insect numbers. Wettable powder formulations of insecticides may produce better results, although they will still not prevent the bugs from invading homes.

When using insecticides, always read and follow the directions for use on the product label. Exercise extreme caution when spraying overhead since chemical will likely drop down on you and objects around you. Wear protective clothing and equipment (gloves, goggles, etc.) to keep insecticide off your skin, hair, and eyes. Be sure to remove or cover objects such as outdoor chairs, grills, swimming and decorative pools, and children's toys. Pesticides have limited ability to stop the bugs from entering homes, so it is also important to seal gaps and openings (such as around plumbing and AC lines) to prevent the bugs from entering home. Avoid crushing insects that do find their way indoors as this may stain surfaces and/or result in unpleasant odors. Vacuum up the insects and place the vacuum bag (or contents) into a trash bag and freeze the bag for several days. You can also drop the bugs into soapy water to kill them. If you simply dump the live insects outdoors, they will likely end up back inside or surviving somewhere else around your property. For more advice, call your local cooperative extension office.

Article and photo courtesty of:

Tim Britton
Extension Agent-Agriculture
Johnston County Ag Center


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