Although the cold winter delayed planting times for gardeners and farmers this spring, it has also been beneficial in that it delayed the return of the kudzu bug. This nuisance pest has been slow to recover from the winter, but we can expect to see populations on the rise in the next few weeks. A member of the stinkbug family, kudzu bug likes to congregate around the eaves and doorways of homes and structures, and it smells awful when disturbed. Before kudzu bug makes its official return, take some preventative measures to help reduce infestations around your home.
What do kudzu bugs look like?
Kudzu bugs are 4-6 mm long (about ¼ inch), somewhat oblong in shape, and olive-green colored with brown specks. Kudzu bugs have a distinct, square-shaped body that makes this an easy bug to identify. If crushed or handled in anyway, this insect excretes a foul odor. The kudzu bug is of Asian origin and was first reported in North Carolina in 2009. It is now found in at least 80 counties throughout North Carolina, including the Cape Fear Region. Kudzu bugs have piercing-sucking mouthparts which they use to suck juices from their plant host, mainly legume-type plants, including garden peas, snap beans, wisteria, soybeans, and you guessed it, kudzu.
Kudzu bug behavior
Kudzu bugs spend their winters hibernating in homes. In the spring, they emerge and congregate on the sides of homes and even on your plants. However, they will only feed on legume crops. Wisteria flowers this time of year and kudzu bugs will begin to feed on it in spring. In the summer months (July-August), kudzu bugs move into soybean fields and kudzu patches. For home gardeners, kudzu bug is mainly a nuisance pest, though it may feed on early-planted legume crops. Their feeding can cause stunted plant growth. Kudzu bugs have several generations per year and will lay eggs throughout the summer months. In the fall they will begin moving back into your home. The bugs often congregate on light-colored surfaces (such as siding, fascia boards, etc.) and then move under siding, or into gaps around doors or windows.
Can I control kudzu bug?
If infestations of kudzu bugs in your home are small, a vacuum cleaner is an effective option, especially if they have congregated around doorways. Once vacuumed, place the bag in the freezer for a few days, then discard the dead bugs in the trash or compost. If infestations are large, chemical control may be necessary; however, insecticides will not provide permanent control and repeated applications will likely be necessary. Products containing a pyrethroid insecticides, such as bifenthrin and permethrin, will provide some level of kudzu bug control on treated surfaces. Because of their high mobility and ability to reproduce rapidly, repeat applications will likely be necessary while kudzu bugs are active. Recommendations for chemical control are for use outside of the home. It is important to always read the label on pesticticide products and follow the directions carefully.
The best method for controlling kudzu bugs is to prevent them from entering your home in the first place. Check all areas around your home to make sure that gaps and openings in your home, such as around plumbing and AC lines, are sealed. This will help deter kudzu bugs moving into your home. Kudzu bugs have quickly become a nuisance pest in the south but hope is on the horizon. Researchers at NC State University are anticipating the release of a parasitic wasp species that is a natural enemy of the kudzu bug. Though its efficacy is yet to be determined, this may be a viable option for control in the next few years.
Learn more about kudzu bugs and their control from the NC Extension kudzu bug fact sheet, available online at ces.ncsu.edu. If you have questions about gardening, visit ces.ncsu.edu, where you can submit questions via the ‘Ask an Expert’ link, or contact your local extension center: 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.
Sam Marshall is the horticulture agent with the Brunswick County Cooperative Extension of NC State University, College of Agriculture & Life Sciences.