Although native to India and China, the kudzu bug (Megacopta cribraria) has become a pest in some of the eastern United States, particularly Tennessee, Florida, Alabama, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Also known as the bean plataspid, lablab bug, and globular stink bug, it was first discovered in the U.S. in 2009 in Georgia. Just a couple years later it was seen in neighboring states, and scientists believe it will continue to spread. The kudzu bug emits a foul-smelling odor as a defense mechanism, which is why it’s often confused with the brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys), another invasive insect that’s native to different parts of Asia.
Kudzu Bug Identification
The kudzu bug is around 1/8 to 1/4 inch long at full size—roughly the same size as a ladybug. Its body is an oblong shape with olive green coloring and brown speckles. When crushed, the bugs can stain surfaces and cause a foul odor. They also can stain skin and cause skin irritation on some people when crushed on the skin.
Kudzu bugs are most noticeable at two times of the year: early spring when they emerge from winter hibernation and fall when they congregate on sunny spots to warm themselves. They are attracted to light-colored surfaces, especially white house siding, white cars, and even white shirts. During their winter inactivity period, you might see groups of them in cracks of house siding, spaces around windows, or even in crevices of trees.
Damage From Kudzu Bugs
Kudzu bugs are named after the plant they prefer to feed on: kudzu. Kudzu plants are native to different parts of Asia but are also a common sight in the Southeastern U.S., where they're considered an invasive vine.
The bugs also commonly eat soybean plants, which can dramatically impact crop production. They suck the juices from the plants, causing the leaves to dry out and the plants to wither and die due to the lost nutrition. Plus, they feed on other types of legume plants, which can impact both farmers and home gardeners.
Similar to stink bugs, boxelder bugs, and squash bugs, the kudzu bug can become a very annoying home pest. These bugs will move indoors when given the opportunity through ill-fitting screens, cracks, and other openings to seek warmth in the winter. And controlling them can be frustrating because of their odor and staining capabilities. If they’re crushed on furniture, carpeting, or another surface in your home, not only can the stain be difficult to get out, but the odor also can linger.
Kudzu Bug Control
Because the kudzu bug is still relatively new to the United States, scientists are still working on effective chemical control measures and other management tactics. Removing the bugs' food sources, especially kudzu plants and soybeans, can help to reduce the number of them on your property. Your state extension office can give you more specific recommendations for your situation.
The best way to control these bugs around homes is prevention. To help prevent an infestation:
- Inspect the building exterior to find and seal all cracks, gaps, and other openings.
- Caulk around incoming pipes, utility wires, and cables.
- Repair window and door screens; ensure that door and window seals are intact.
If the bugs do come inside a building, they should be vacuumed up with a hose attachment (so you don’t crush them) and disposed of in a vacuum bag. The bag can be submerged in hot, soapy water to kill the bugs. Pest management professionals also can assist in elimination of kudzu bugs, though it's not recommended to use insecticide within a home.