Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Friday, September 23, 2011

Kudzu Bug

If you live in the South or have ever visited the Southeastern part of the United States you are probably familiar with Kudzu. It is a vine that was introduced for erosion control. The problem is that it grows too well. In fact it can grow up to 1 foot a day during the summer months. For that reason it is often referred to as "the vine that ate the South". 

  Kudzu growing up trees

It is seen growing along roadsides all over the southeast smothering and suffocating trees, power lines, buildings, native plants and anything that stands in its way. It is very difficult to kill and according to the University of Auburn (Alabama) herbicides are not very effective and can take up to 10 years to kill.

Kudzu blooms are fragrant and can be used to make jelly. They will form seed pods

This vine was brought over from China and introduced to the South in 1883 where it grows better than in its native land. It wasn't until 1953 that the government removed it from its list of recommended plants and in 1970 it was listed as a weed. It currently covers more than 7 million acres of the Southeast! The problem as with any imported product is that the natural enemies don't come along with it.

Well, until recently.

According to the University of Georgia, the Kudzu Bug (Megacopta cribrari) was first discovered in Georgia in 2009.  Researchers are still trying to discover how the bug got here. Like Kudzu, it is also native to China and India.


So you may be wondering why I am giving you all this background on Kudzu and the Kudzu bug. Well, look what I found on my Hyacinth Bean vine. Ah yes, none other than the infamous kudzu bug!


These bugs are about 3-5 mm long with a hump very much like a ladybug. They have needle like mouth parts that suck the moisture out of the stems, sap, petioles and leaves making them looked scorched. The Kudzu Bug is a type of stink bug which emits a very strong, unpleasant odor when threatened.


These bugs not only feed on Kudzu but legume crops including soybeans, Lima beans, kidney beans,and green beans. A nuisance to homeowners this has even more worrisome implications for agriculture. You can see how many bugs populate just a small part of my hyacinth bean vine. One can only imagine how many would be on a soybean seedling.


As temperatures begin to drop and the kudzu leaves are killed off by frost the adult bugs look for places to overwinter. They are often seen crawling by the thousands on light colored houses and find their way into homes through small openings around windows and doors.

In the garden they can be controlled using organic insecticides such as insecticidal soap, horticultural oil or spinosad. Multiple applications may be needed.

This bug is spreading to other states. Reports of this bug have been confirmed in South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee. Any sighting of this invasive species should be reported to the state department of agriculture. There are no natural enemies!

17 comments:

  1. Ugly little buggers. Hope they don't make it up here.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

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  2. Ew! Now that is a bug I would not want to meet.

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  3. Good grief, as if the vine itself wasn't bad enough. That's a heck of a lot of bugs on that one small plant.

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  4. Great! :( All we need is another bug! Actually, thanks for the info. I will be on the lookout. Doesn't sound like these are going to be easy to get rid of.

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  5. OMG for that kudzu bug. That kudzu is now already considered farmers' nightmare here. It was introduced by some American consultants in late 80s to early 90s here, of course because they come under the USAID programs the people will just follow. So as they say the rest is history, and it is now wrecking havoc just like in your area. It is easier for your country because it is easy to implement rules, but here these kudzu are just left on their own. I hope those bugs are not here yet or else it aggravates the already very big problem.

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  6. Oh Karin this is awful. The implications are overwhelming to even think about...thx for this info. I spied a very new bug in my garden that looked a little like this...it probably isn't this bug since we have no Kudzu, but you never know

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  7. I'm thinking if I should send my hornets over. You mentioned there are no natural enemies. How strange. Probably just not researched yet.

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  8. Kudzu is bad enough, but the stinky bug patrol? Yuck.

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  9. Well I was getting ready to place an order for a pound or two of those little buggers until you shared the rest of the story! Potentially not good for the gardens. Guess we'll just have to stick to the herd of goats for kudzu control! Ha Ha! Great information, thanks!

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  10. Oh no! How terrible! As if kudzu wasn't terrible enough all by itself. And the thought of the bugs getting into houses.. *shudder*

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  11. HolleyGarden, this bug is a huge problem! I have sprayed with horticultural oil using several applications and it is working slowly. I am trying to be proactive so they won't overwinter in my house!

    Andrea, crazy that some American consultants would recommend this plant since by the 80's and 90's the implications of this invasive plant were well known. It is a huge problem since it is very costly to control...local and state governments have to control it along the roadways and farmers and homeowners have to control it on their properties. It just grows everywhere!

    Donna, I don't think the kudzu bug has traveled that far north yet, but it maybe a matter of time. Since they feed on legumes it is a possibility. For now, they probably have plenty to eat here with all the kudzu we have!

    One, LOL! I should probably have clarified that there are no natural predators in this country (yet)!

    pumpkydine, stick to the goats you don't want these buggers! :O)

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  12. Ack! Another invasive!! Stepping on them with my big feet is my favorite organic bug-killing method! We have kudzu here, just not lots, thanksfully! I will definitely keep my eyes peeled. I have never heard of these bugs before so thanks for the awesome post!

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  13. That is very distressing. I wish there was more publicity about kudzu and what it has done because maybe it would make people take non-native invasive plants more seriously. We have our own version in the north: Oriental bittersweet. It looks just like your first photo.

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  14. Ugh. Great post - and identification job. I know a few vacant lots in the area that could use some kudzu bugs, though it sounds like the cure is worse than the problem!

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  15. If there is one redeeming factor for our dry climate, it is that kudzu does not grow in our area. But I do grow Hyacinth Bean Vine, so I guess I better be on the lookout for that bug. Yeesh! I cannot believe the number of bugs on your vine! I cannot imagine the gazillions of bugs it would take to eliminate the kudzu. I am always amazed when we drive east at the acres of kudzu coverage!!

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  16. We just saw these two days ago, swarming some trees at a Kohls department store in Acworth, GA! My son is a "bugboy", and we tried to look them up, thinking they were beetles. But stinkbug makes sense; he was going to catch some but after putting a few in a container, he let them go, saying "They stink!". At least one rode home on my shirt and was discovered once we got here. If I had known what it was, we would have killed it. Son caught it and let it go outside. ugh.

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  17. OMG we got them! They are awful. Literally thousands of them! they are all over our arbor which is covered with whisteria and carolina juniper. They stink to high heaven! Help from any source on getting rid of these will be appreciated!

    Cindy
    Inman SC

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"Don't wait for someone to bring you flowers. Plant your own garden and decorate your soul"

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