Did You Know…

Kudzu Bugs Looking for Overwintering Spots

By now, you have probably seen, or at least heard about, the Kudzu bug, Megacopta cribaria. This newly introduced invasive pest feeds on kudzu, soybeans, and many other plants in the bean family. With kudzu and soybeans drying up as the weather turns cold, Cooperative Extension is fielding a number of calls from growers and homeowners with kudzu bugs on and in their homes.

The adult insects are leaving the fields in search of places to overwinter.  While most will settle down into a crack or crevice in tree bark, they are also found in and around homes where they might settle into siding, behind shutters, and in the eaves of houses- anywhere they can find a dry place out of the elements.  Kudzu bugs seem particularly attracted to white and light colored homes. Cracks in siding, vents, and other small crevices on the outside of homes are perfect spots for them to overwinter, providing shelter from the elements and warmth radiating from your home.

Some callers are reporting thousands of the insects on and around their homes.  The good news is, the insects do not do any structural damage to the home, like termites would. The bad news is, chemical controls applied to the home are unlikely to have much effect. They only kill the insects that actually come into contact with the spray, which may be difficult to administer properly to an entire home. In addition, the insects will come out of soybean and kudzu fields in waves, not all at once, meaning that multiple applications would be necessary for effective control.  If you insist on spraying, use pyrethrins or pyrethroids in formulation approved for application to structures. Cover furniture, pet food and water dishes, and children’s toys to protect them from contact with the insecticide.

The best defense against the insects in and on the home is a vacuum cleaner. Bagging and freezing the insects will insure that they die; vacuuming and releasing the insects may just enable them to come right back to the home.  It can also be helpful to seal up any cracks that would enable the insects to enter the home.  Vacuuming, while labor intense and time consuming, has proven to be the most successful control measure in homes.

When disturbed, kudzu bugs emit a foul odor, similar to that of a stinkbug, which can result in headaches and irritate the respiratory system. , Their fecal matter and secretions can stain surfaces, leaving a speckled mess on siding and windows. In addition, some people may be sensitive to the excretions of the insect, causing a contact rash.

The insects have been particularly active in Jones County over the last week; as temperatures cool down, we will see less activity from them until next spring, when the adults will emerge from their resting places, infest kudzu and soybean plants, and begin the cycle again.

North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, age, veteran status, or disability.  In addition, the two Universities welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation.  North Carolina State University, North Carolina A&T State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.

This article will be published in the Jones Post newspaper on November 1, 2012 and was written by Nicole Sanchez, Area Commercial Horticulture Agent.

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