Thursday, October 20, 2011

Kudzu Bug - A Small, Brown, "Lady Bug" That Invades Homes and Gardens

Kudzu bugs clustered on wisteria. Photo by Julie W.
If you live in the south-eastern US you may have noticed a new insect this summer and fall (see photo): the insect is called the kudzu bug (Megacopta cribraria) and is characterized by -
  • small, brownish/green in color
  • shaped sort-of like a ladybug
  • not seen prior to about 2 years ago
  • invades homes in the fall
  • congregates on garden plants, and especially, kudzu vine (For those that don't live in the southern US, kudzu is a highly invasive weedy vine, "the vine that ate the south!", that grows everywhere, on everything.)
  • a new and important pest of soybean
    This true bug (Hemiptera)  resembles a ladybug (a cocinellid beetle) in size and shape, but not color (see this page for a picture of a real ladybug/lady beetle). Also, you don't generally find ladybugs clustered together like you see in the photo.

    This a new "lady bug" has some unpleasant characteristics. (1) Feeds on and weakens garden plants as well as some agricultural crops, like soybean, in addition to weedy plants like kudzu; (2) produces a distinctive, strong odour when disturbed; (3) congregates on houses in the fall when air temperatures start to drop. This final characteristic of "invading" homes in the fall is the one that many people will notice first.

    The kudzu bug was first found in north-eastern Georgia in 2009 but has since spread to North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama and will likely spread to all south-eastern states in time, anywhere kudzu grows.

    Kudzu bugs as nuisance pests

    Because the kudzu bug arrived in North America without the natural enemies that would normally keep populations in check in their native lands (Asia), this bug has seen explosive growth. After feeding and multiplying all summer the population of kudzu bugs in an area can be large. Then as the air temperatures begin to decline in fall these bugs move from their host plants and seek shelter for winter months. They often congregate on houses just like similar bugs such as the brown marmorated stink bug of the northeastern US and the boxelder bug. And, like these others kudzu bugs are harmless to people and homes but can be a significant nuisance to homeowners when they congregate on siding, and enter walls and attic spaces.

    What should you do?

    Treat kudzu bug invasions like you would boxelder bugs or brown marmorated stink bugs - see How to Manage Boxelder Bug Invasions for details. Eventually the numbers of kudzu bug will decline as native predators and parasites discover this new insect and adapt to it. Until then, at least it is impacting the growth of kudzu vine!

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    16 comments:

    Liz G said...

    These bugs DO bite!! I had one find its way down my shirt and the dang thing bit me! It hurt!!! The pain lasted about 15 minutes and then it stung when I got in the shower.

    bradsta97 said...

    I live in the uk and foud this type of bug all over so how could it get over hear?

    Chatty Cathy-Clip Your String said...

    I have a garden here in
    South Carolina. These bugs are living in MASSES on my green bean plants and I had no Idea what they were. I finally decided to find out on the internet. Is there anyway I can get them off? The vines are wrapped around posts and the bugs have crawled through them and nestled themselves into places that are hard to reach.

    nmwilson said...

    They, indeed, do bite. And my granddaughter showed an allergic reaction to it. I'll do my best to get rid of them--they are EVERYWHERE in Middle Georgia.

    ashley l said...

    I was sprayed/stung/bitten by kudzu bugs while clearing kudzu in NC. Within a day I had dark spots, pus-filled blisters, lesions, and itchy red bumpy skin. A week later, it's still there and spreading slightly. My husband also got bit a few months ago, also while clearing kudzu. He had itchy skin discolorations for a couple of weeks. Does anyone know how to best deal with the skin reactions?

    Shauna said...

    I have these bugs on my green beans. I just started spraying my plants and it really seems to help. I blended fresh garlic and jalapeno peppers with water then strained and diluted it. I do this every day and when the spray hits the bugs they either fall to the ground or fly away. The bug population has really decreased over the last few days. I just hope my green bean production will get back to normal.

    joaniecat said...

    June 6th, 2012 I live in northern Ontario, Canada. I saw one of these bugs on my patio, thought it was an odd ladybug and took a picture. My husband found this site when he 'googled' the bug. I guess I'd better keep an eye out for this nasty little creature.

    Bill said...

    Glad to identify these things crawling on our wisteria--in Atlanta region. I will spray them with homemade garlic/fish oil mixture; let's hope it works.

    Paul said...

    Kudzu bugs (Megacopta cribraria) don't necessary bite but emits a spray when it feels it's in danger. I personally am allergic to this spray and have the grayish swollen patches to prove it. I've tried to find treatments to get rid of these patches but to no avail. I have found that if you dry out these patches by applying rubbing alcohol or benadryl cream then take a hot shower the next morning, it speeds up the process of getting rid of them. The gray patches kind of flake off like dead skin or peeling a old scab away. Just be warned, like a scab if you peel it too soon, it may bleed. Hope this helps anyone suffering from allergic reactions to these bugs

    Sweetness said...

    I first saw them on my porch a few weeks ago in NC. thought they were gone and then on Tuesday May 7th there were hundreds on my porch. They like light colors and reflective things. Sprayed them with Ortho flower and plants around deck and house. they like vegetables and fruits.will kill by sucking juice from plants. found more dead every day as they land on things. Looked up into my silver maple tree and were thousands. sprayed tree today and they are dropping from tree, cant kill them all they fly but can control infestation and will dust attic with powder to keep them from nesting in my home if you see them in the summer.

    David Douglas said...

    Glad for this site. We just moved into a new townhome in N. Georgia. They are everywhere out back and attach to my clothing when I take the dog out. They fly! I thought they were black lady bugs at first...weird. great....

    Brittany Folsom said...

    My mom was bit multiple times. When she showed family doctor his first response was that it appeared to look like cigarette burns. She has one from a previous bite and it left scars.

    Kristen Blaylock said...

    These bugs bite. My daughter and I were going out to get the mail and one landed on her arm and bit her. They are jerks and they are everywhere. We have kudzu coming up the fence in the yard and they are covering it. Nasty little things.

    jim segars said...

    They are all over my Magnolia tree in columbia sc. they start moving around when the sun warms them up.

    Marina Butron said...

    June 30, 2014 I guess they aren't in the south anymore. I'm in California and I'm seeing them everywhere. I moved from a big city to a more country town. We moved in December of last year, now that it's starting to warm up I'm seeing them everywhere. They always somehow end up in the house too. I also thought they were some kind of weird ladybugs as I have never seen any other than the red ones.

    Alecia F. said...

    One flew down my shirt the other day when I was walking into work. It bit/stung/sprayed or whatever me under my boob. (Yea, these bugs are total freaks).
    Anyway, the bite burned like crazy, welted, and burns to the touch. Literally, like fire. Now it's 2 days later and it's turned into a huge bruise, about the size of a nickel. Has anyone else experienced this before? Any advice on what to do?