If you live in the Southeast, you probably have already heard of these little buggers on the news or seen them for yourself. Kudzu bugs are small, almost square-shaped, olive and black mottled colored insects. They are about the size of lady beetles and fly just as well. These insects were first discovered in the United States near Atlanta, GA in 2009.
It was the first record of any insect in the family Plataspidae to be found in the Northern Hemisphere. (They are native to parts of Asia.) Since then, they have spread dramatically and are now found throughout Georgia, the Carolinas, and parts of Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, and Florida. That’s a lot of ground to cover for a little bug, and in less than 4 years! Entomologists are carefully tracking their wildfire-like spread. So what’s the big deal with these little guys? Well, as their name suggests, they like to feed on Kudzu which is a good thing. Kudzu is a fast growing vine (also native to Asia) that was brought to the U.S. many years ago by the D.O.T. to help control erosion on banks along highways, but since its introduction has overtaken trees, utility poles, and buildings in these areas. So, having a bug that will feed on kudzu to help control it is a good thing. Unfortunately, they also like to feed on other legume crops such as soybeans, and other crops so they are causing major problems for farmers in the areas they have invaded. Like lady beetles, the adults like to overwinter inside structures and are a nuisance to homeowners. They like to congregate on the sides of buildings, especially light-colored ones. So if you live in a white house next to a soybean field or a kudzu patch you are a prime target for being invaded.
They don’t bite, so you don’t have to worry about kudzu bug bites, but they are related to stinkbugs and will emit a foul odor when disturbed. Some people have developed allergic reactions to these secretions. Kudzu bugs are also known as globular stink bugs, bean plataspids, and lablab bugs.
So what can you do if you become inundated with kudzu bugs? First, try to keep kudzu bugs from coming inside your home. Make sure windows and doors shut tightly and do not leave gaps. Close gaps with weather stripping or caulk. Make sure foundation vents, eave vents, gable vents, etc. are also fitted tightly with no gaps around them and are in good condition. Install a screen or exclusion device to the top of the chimney to prevent them from entering there. If bugs do get inside, use a vacuum to suck them up and be careful not to squish them as this may stain some fabrics. Empty the canister into an outdoor trash can, or replace the bag soon after vacuuming them otherwise your vacuum will begin to stink. Kudzu bugs on the outside of the house should be treated by your pest professional. There are restrictions to using certain pesticides (those that contain pyrethroids) to treat the sides of buildings, but we do have products without these restrictions that are promising. Sometimes it may require multiple treatments in order to make a dent since there can be so many of the bugs in an area. It seems like these bugs are going to be a big stinky problem for quite some time!