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DALY: Kudzu bugs creating trouble for area homeowners

Timothy Daly

Timothy Daly

As the weather begins to warm up after a long cold winter, many homeowners have noticed the presence of small insects congregating in large numbers on the sides of their homes, and in some cases they invade houses. These are kudzu bugs. They are not native and were introduced to Georgia recently. They are also found in high concentrations in nearby kudzu patches. By taking a few control measures, kudzu bugs can be less troublesome around your home.

This insect species is native to parts of Asia and had never been seen anywhere in the western hemisphere until five years ago. Originally detected in just nine counties in Georgia, it has now spread throughout the state and into parts of the Carolinas. How it entered the country and became established remains a mystery. With all of the international travel and being near one of the world’s largest airports, it could have come here in many ways. In its native range in Asia, it feeds primarily on kudzu and other related plants.

Kudzu was introduced to the Southeastern United States more than a century ago for erosion control. It became invasive in nature, and it grows at an alarming rate. Over the years, it has spread throughout the region unimpeded. Kudzu is difficult to control, especially when it overtakes and covers large areas.

The kudzu bug is roughly one-quarter of an inch in size, oblong in shape, and olive green to brown in color. It produces a foul odor when disturbed. The insects feed on kudzu, but so far, reports show it does only minimal damage to the vine. They also have been seen infesting soybeans, a major crop in parts of the state. Researchers are continually monitoring the insect to see if it presents a long term threat to this crop.

During the fall, when the weather begins to cool and the days shorten, and in the spring, as the day temperatures start to warm, but the nights are still cold, the kudzu bugs seek shelter in secluded places for protection. They often begin to congregate on the south and west sides of building structures to soak up the sun’s warmth. The kudzu bugs are attracted to light-colored buildings.

If they infest your home, how can they be controlled? On the outside, apply an insecticide that is labeled for control of insects on the perimeter of homes. Repeat applications may be needed. If they get into your home, avoid crushing them since they will release a bad odor and can stain surfaces. Insecticide applications are not recommended for managing them indoors. The best course of action is to use a vacuum cleaner to remove them. Tightly seal the bag from the vacuum cleaner and then dispose of it.

Keeping them out of your home in the first place is essential. Make sure screens installed over windows are in place correctly. When exterior doors are closed, they should form a tight seal. Consider installing door sweeps if you do not have any. Make sure vents are also screened and seal up cracks or holes on the outside of the structure.

Long-term control of these insects presents a challenge due to their presence in large numbers combined with an abundant source of food and cover, kudzu. Elimination of nearby kudzu patches is ultimately needed for sustained control. Apply herbicides labeled for controlling brushy weeds to these areas. Multiple applications of these chemicals are often necessary to totally eliminate kudzu from an area. Make sure you follow all label directions and safety precautions when using chemical pesticides.

Kudzu bugs are here to stay, and we will have to learn to live with their bothersome activity. Several simple steps can be taken to minimize their presence in and around your home.

Timothy Daly is an Agricultural and Natural Resource Extension Agent with Gwinnett County. He can be contacted at 678-377-4010 or tdaly@uga.edu