Since they arrived in Atlanta Georgia region last year, kudzu bugs have multiplied and spread across the Southeast. They are also showing up in new places Lawrenceville, Decator, Roswell, Smyrna, Cumming Johns Creek and Alpharetta behind tree bark.
Almost two years ago, a tiny immigrant pest arrived in Georgia, and there’s nothing the state’s immigration office can do to make it leave. The bean plataspid, or kudzu bug, munches on kudzu and soybeans and has now set up residence in four Southern states.
Homeowners consider the bug a nuisance. Soybean producers shudder at the damage it causes. And many are hoping it will prove to be a kudzu killer.
The kudzu bug was first spotted in Georgia in the fall of 2009 when insect samples were sent to the University of Georgia Homeowner Insect and Weed Diagnostic Laboratory in Griffin, Ga. The first samples came from UGA Cooperative Extension agents in Barrow, Gwinnett and Jackson counties.
“The bug can now be found in 143 Georgia counties, all South Carolina counties, 42 North Carolina counties and 5 Alabama counties,” said Wayne Gardner, an entomologist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
Last fall, Gardner had to search repeatedly to find the pest in kudzu patches in north Georgia. “Those areas are loaded with bugs this year,” he said.
By studying the pest for the past year, Gardner has determined wisteria, green beans and other legumes are the bug’s true hosts in the landscapes and home gardens. A plant becomes a true host of the insect when different life stages of the insect are found on the plant, he said.
Removing kudzu is one way to help control the pest around homes, but that’s not an easy task, especially if the kudzu is growing on your neighbor’s land.
“The bugs re-invade so quickly from nearby kudzu that a pest control operator may have to treat every other day, losing money in the process. A single call that they were paid for might turn into a half-dozen visits, five of which they’d not be paid for,” said CAES entomologist Dan Suiter. “I suspect that the pest control industry will be steering somewhat clear of kudzu bug control unless some smart pest control operator begins to market kudzu removal as part of his business.”
Munching on kudzu
No one seems to mind if the bugs take out a 1,000 or so acres of kudzu. But are they?
“We found the bug caused a 32 percent reduction in kudzu growth last year in the plots we monitored,” said Jim Hanula, an entomologist with the USDA Forest Service. He monitored the bug on kudzu plots in Athens, Ga., for the past year.
This may sound like reason to celebrate, but kudzu roots can grow as deep as 12 feet and weigh up to 300 pounds, Hanula said.
“We’re hopeful that feeding by the bug year after year will deplete those roots and weaken the plants,” he said. If the bug’s effect is cumulative, kudzu plants will likely weaken, and patches won’t be as thick.
“Hopefully, the bug will reduce kudzu’s ability to climb, which would be good for forestry,” he said. Weed Pro Lawn Care would like to thank UGA for this great info…