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"Kudzu Bug" Taking Over the Southeast?

Everyone can thank Atlanta for a new species of invasive insect, Megacopta Cribaria. Better known as the “Kudzu Bug” this stinky little critter first showed up in 2009 and entomologists at the University of Georgia quickly got to researching. As it turns out, every Kudzu Bug studied thus far appears to have descended from the same female, a statistical anomaly.

The Kudzu Bug looks like a cross between a tick and a stink bug, and stink it does. Putting off an offensive smell if threatened these little critters invade by the thousands and are so far proving tough to kill. Some people in the Southeast are heralding their arrival – they like to much on Kudzu leaves, Kudzu being the only plant more invasive than a root canal. While the bugs are helpful in slowing Kudzu growth they’ve also proven harmful.

Turns out the Kudzu Bug also likes the taste of soybeans, one of Georgia’s cash crops. An infestation can decrease soybean yield by 20-25% in a season, a big problem for farmers. They’ve also been known to dine on ornamental flowers, too, so regular homeowners aren’t immune to this new species of pest. For whatever reason, scientists have determined the bugs are highly attracted to light colored surfaces so white houses, fences, and flowers are particularly at risk.

The bugs have been spotted in swarms numbering in the thousands which come out around springtime when Kudzu starts to bloom. They’ve proven cold-resistant and appear to bed down for winter as a mass, and just like bedbugs, they’re populating quickly. Now found in 8 states, the Kudzu Bug doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon and pest control planners are scrambling to figure out how to eradicate them.

Some theories suggest the bugs’ shallow gene pool may be the key to determining an effective pesticide. Others worry the problem is already too widespread to be contained and we’ll have to let nature take its course with this particular pest. With an abundance of Kudzu and warm southern weather welcoming the bugs in, however, this problem could stick around.

If you’ve noticed Kudzu Bugs in your yard (pictured here) you’re best off contacting a pest control specialist immediately. Some chemical pesticides may be effective against spread and at the very least you can get advice on limiting the features of your home and yard that may attract the insects.

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