Get Rid of the Kudzu Bug

Kudzu bug
The kudzu bug. USDA ARS-Richard Evans

Although native to India and China, the kudzu has become a new pest in some Eastern states, particularly Tennessee, as well as Florida, Alabama, North and South Carolina. The kudzu is a true bug, not a beetle as some expect. In fact, it has a hard shield and is sometimes confused with stink bugs. (In fact, it is sometimes called a globular stink bug.) Because it is so new to The States, researchers are still working to find methods of control and extermination of the bug.

Kudzu Bug Identification

  • The kudzu bug is about 1/6 inch to 1/4 inch long – about the same size as the ladybug.
  • In shape, it is roundly oblong.
  • In color, it is olive-green to brown with brown specks.
  • When crushed, the bug can stain surfaces and cause a foul odor.
  • They are of most concern when populations grow large.

Recently introduced to the U.S., the kudzu bug was first discovered here on the kudzu plant near Atlanta, Ga., in 2009. It quickly moved across Georgia and South Carolina, causing extensive soybean damage; in 2011 was found in North Carolina, Alabama, and Virginia; and by 2012 is being found in at least two more states, that of Florida and Tennessee.

Kudzu Bug Damage

The plant, kudzu is often planted to reduce erosion, but, despite its name, the kudzu bug eats more than just this plant. The bugs also feed on soybeans and can dramatically impact crop production. It chews into the veins of a plant's leaves to suck out nutrients, causing the leaves to dry out and wither and the plan to lose nutrition. The kudzu bug feeds and lay eggs through summer into the fall, then seeks out sheltered areas where it can pass the winter, such as under bark or rocks, or in leaf litter, or behind siding or in gaps or cracks of buildings.

Similar to the stink bugs, boxelder bugs, and squash bugs, the kudzu bug can become a very annoying pest of homes. In early fall, the bug will often congregate on light-colored exterior walls, then move into gaps and cracks seeking shelter and warmth in which to overwinter. Then, as described by North Carolina State University (NCSU), "In the following spring, the bugs become active again and begin moving onto kudzu and other host plants, particularly wisteria. As a result, those bugs which have overwintered inside homes (inside walls, attics, etc.) may end up inside the home instead of heading to food sources. They may also land on siding and will deposit their eggs on non-plant surfaces such as brick, vinyl, and other siding materials."

Kudzu Bug Control

Because the bug is new to the U.S. research is still being conducted on its control. According to a Clemson University Cooperative Extension article, scientists are researching cultural and biological methods and working with chemical companies to add the kudzu bug to insecticide labels. Early indications are that neonicotinoid and pyrethroid insecticides may control the pest, but additional research is needed to identify most effective treatments.

As with the squash, stink, and boxelder bugs, pesticides have limited ability to stop the bugs from entering homes, so the best control of these home-invading pests is a good defense. According to NCSU, homes near soybean fields or patches of kudzu are most likely in jeopardy, thus it is advised that homeowners watch for signs of the bugs' movement to (and in) homes in the fall, particularly when temperatures start declining.

To help prevent invasion,

  • Inspect the home or building exterior to find and seal all cracks, gaps, and openings.
  • Caulk around incoming pipes, utility wires, and cables.
  • Repair window and door screens; ensure door and window seals are intact.
  • If the bugs are found in the home, they can be vacuumed up. Once captured, the vacuum bag or its contents should be frozen for several days to kill the bugs. They can also be dropped into soapy water.
  • In the fall, the exterior of the home on which the bugs are found can be sprayed with an approved insecticide.
  • Always read and follow label directions when using any pesticide.