If insects placed personal ads, kudzu bugs would probably run something along these lines right about now, “Small, brown, square bug seeking a cozy place to spend the winter with a few hundred of my best friends. No food required. Will be out by spring.” If kudzu bugs are knocking at your door seeking a place to overwinter, your best defense may be a vacuum cleaner, since pesticides have little impact on this persistent invader. The good news is they will not damage your home and their rush to find winter housing will likely be over by Thanksgiving.


If insects placed personal ads, kudzu bugs would probably run something along these lines right about now, “Small, brown, square bug seeking a cozy place to spend the winter with a few hundred of my best friends. No food required. Will be out by spring.” If kudzu bugs are knocking at your door seeking a place to overwinter, your best defense may be a vacuum cleaner, since pesticides have little impact on this persistent invader. The good news is they will not damage your home and their rush to find winter housing will likely be over by Thanksgiving. 





Where are they from?



Native to China and India, kudzu bugs were first found in the United States in the fall of 2009, just outside of Atlanta. Since then, these small but highly mobile insects have spread throughout the kudzu infested south, including most of North Carolina’s 100 counties. Kudzu bugs were first recorded in Pender, New Hanover, and Brunswick counties in the fall of 2011.



During the summer months, kudzu bugs feed on kudzu, soybeans, field peas, butter beans, and other legumes, but when the weather turns cooler they start to seek a place to spend the winter. Kudzu bugs overwinter as fully mature adults nestled under tree bark, tucked into mulch or leaf litter, or dry and warm inside your house. People living near soybean fields, kudzu infested areas, or who have hyacinth bean or wisteria vines in their yards are most likely to see kudzu bugs around their homes.



Should I be concerned?



Kudzu bugs will not damage your house or harm you if you come in contact with them, though as a member of the stink bug family they do emit an unpleasant odor and may stain surfaces when crushed. Kudzu bugs are particularly attracted to light colors and high places and often congregate in large numbers on the sides of white buildings, light colored cars, and other reflective surfaces. They may even land on you if you are wearing light colored clothing. Be sure to check yourself before going inside and brush off any insects that may have landed on your clothing.



What should I do?



If kudzu bugs are starting to gather in or around your home little can be done to stop them. The exodus of kudzu bugs from surrounding fields is expected to last through the next two to three weeks. Sealing any gaps or cracks that allow entry inside the house will help keep some of them out; dousing your house in pesticides will not. While you can kill kudzu bugs by spraying pesticides directly on them, this does little to control the population since thousands more are waiting to take their place.



If you do need to treat a small area that is covered with kudzu bugs, sprays containing a synthetic pyrethriod as the active ingredient are most effective. These include the chemicals bifenthrin, permethrin, cyfluthrin , and lamda-cyhalothrin, which will be listed in the active ingredients box on the front of the pesticide label. Organic pesticides have little impact on this pest, though pyrethrins, the natural compounds upon which synthetic pyrethroids are based, may be slightly more effective than others.



When using any pesticide read and follow all label directions. If spraying overhead, be sure to wear eye protection and remove or cover objects below, such as deck chairs, grills, children’s toys, and pools since they are likely to be contaminated by spray drift. Keep in mind the effects of spraying are only temporary.



Spraying inside your home is not recommended. Mike Waldvogel, Extension Specialist with NCSU’s Entomology Department, describes treating indoors as “an exercise in futility”. What he recommends instead is a vacuum cleaner. Simply vacuum up the bugs that have gathered inside your home on a daily basis, but be sure to dispose of the bag or empty out your vacuum if it is bagless, otherwise the bugs will start to stink. If the bugs are still alive, you can freeze them or drown them in soapy water before disposing of them; if released alive they will likely just return to your home.



Learn more!



More information about dealing with kudzu bugs indoors is available online from NC Cooperative Extension: insects.ncsu.edu/Urban/kudzubug.htm. For lawn and gardening advice, visit ces.ncsu.edu where you can submit questions via the ‘Ask an Expert’ link, or contact your local Cooperative Extension center by phone: If you live in Pender County, call 910-259-1238; in New Hanover County, call 910-798-7660; in Brunswick County call 910-253-2610.



Charlotte D. Glen is the horticulture agent with the Pender County Cooperative Extension of NC State University, College of Agriculture & Life Sciences. She can be reached via e-mail at Charlotte_Glen@ncsu.edu.