A recent study conducted in Georgia reported that kudzu bugs only damage some legumes, with kudzu and soybean being their main hosts. Other legumes such as peas, beans, peanuts and wisteria are far less attractive to them.
The kudzu bug is not a beetle. It is a nuisance stinkbug that secretes a foul odor that can stain wall coverings, fabrics and even skin — especially in the fall when it is looking for a place to overwinter. The bugs are olive green or brownish in color, about the size of an Asian lady beetle with a squared backend.
The insect is a native of Asia. In 2009, it was discovered to be residing in Georgia as well, and was confirmed in Alabama’s Cleburne and Cherokee counties in 2010. In 2011, it dispersed to Chamber, Randolph, Lee, Russell, Montgomery and Calhoun counties. By the end of October 2012, the insect was recorded in 45 counties across Alabama as well as parts of Mississippi — mostly on kudzu plants.
March and April is the time over-wintering adults begin to come out of hiding to aggressively seek plants and invade homes. You may see them indiscriminately feeding on various plants. This is because, after starving all winter, they are in desperate need of nutrition to complete egg-development before moving on to lay eggs. You may see kudzu bugs by the hundreds on landscape plants — figs, grapes, etc. Although they may not be doing as much damage to these plants as you think. The insects also congregate on light-colored surfaces like umbrellas, exterior house walls or even light-colored vehicles. But they are just biding their time until their preferred hosts, kudzu and soybeans crops, are available to eat. They can also complete their life cycle on these hosts’ leaves, laying eggs that will later hatch nymphs.
Many insecticides labeled for homeowners will kill kudzu bugs. Pyrethroid insecticides can be used. Just be sure the plant you’re using it on is listed on the label — pesticide labels are law.
Kudzu bugs have been found on many plants including wisteria, figs, elderberry, soybean and, of course, kudzu. But the biggest concern is the detrimental effect these insects could have on soybean production in Alabama. The county extension office is continuing efforts to map the kudzu bug and its potential food and host sources.
If you see kudzu bugs in your own landscape, snap a picture and send it to your local extension system along with the plant name and location.