Every fall, there are certain creatures that start coming into our homes in search of a place to spend the winter. One of the more common is the Asian ladybug or beetle.
The Asian lady beetle has been a pest for a decade or more. They like to congregate in buildings because they overwinter in caves in their native range.
This year, there is a new insect that could become a pest in homes and in gardens. This is the kudzu bug. That's right, an insect that eats kudzu. In Georgia, this insect can be found in kudzu patches.
In fact, Georgia was the first place in the country that this insect was found. This year, it was found in 60 Georgia counties. Columbia County is one of them. I saw my first kudzu bug in July in Evans on the window of a local restaurant. There was a kudzu patch in the area.
The kudzu bug goes by a number of different names. These are bean plataspid, lablab bug or globular stink bug. But the scientific name is Megacopta cribraria . Adults are 4 to 6 millimeters long, oblong, olive-green colored with brown speckles, and produce a mildly offensive odor when disturbed. It is related to various species of stink bugs.
In its native Asia, one of M. cribraria's preferred hosts is kudzu, an invasive vine introduced into the U.S. more than 100 years ago as a ground cover to slow soil erosion. However, kudzu now grows unimpeded throughout the Southeast.
Kudzu appears to be a primary host in North America, and we believe M. cribraria will continue to spread into most areas where kudzu is established. This insect has been found on beans as well.
During the fall season, some insect species, triggered by declining temperatures and day lengths, seek secluded sites where they spend the winter months protected from low temperatures. The following spring, as temperatures increase, overwintered insects recover from their winter inactivity to resume their normal life cycle.
In Georgia, M. cribraria's presence was detected for the first time when large numbers exhibited this overwintering behavior in response to declining temperatures. The insects moved from nearby kudzu patches into the warm, sunlit south and east exposures of nearby homes. They especially gravitated toward light-colored surfaces.
There are a number of things that can be done to keep the Asian lady beetle and the Kudzu bug from entering buildings. The first is to exclude these insects from entering the home. For instance, homeowners should ensure that screening is placed over possible routes of insect entry into the house; that screens on windows are well-sealed and without holes; and that soffit, ridge, and gable vents are properly screened.
In locations where screening cannot be used, such as around pipe penetrations, steel wool can be stuffed into these openings to prevent the entry of these insects.
Lastly, doors should establish a tight seal when closed, and doorsweeps should be installed. To gain relief from invading insects landing on homes, an exterior wall application of an insecticide spray, labeled for nuisance insect control outdoors, might be needed. Unfortunately, re-application might be necessary because kudzu and other surrounding vegetation often remain as a source of re-infestation.
Insects that have managed to enter the home should not be crushed, as this action may stain indoor surfaces and/or result in odors that may prove difficult to eliminate. Rather, insects should be vacuumed and the bagged insects then placed in hot, soapy water.
When these insects are found congregating inside homes, they are releasing pheromones that will attract more insects to these spots. These pheromones need to be removed by wiping down the walls where the insects were with soapy water. I have done this in my home and it seems to work.
The other way to help control the kudzu bug is to control the kudzu growing near buildings.
This can be done mechanically. It is a hard way to get rid of kudzu. It requires repeated mowing that can take years.
The other option is to use herbicides. There are a number of herbicides that can be used to control this vine. However, it will take repeated applications to reduce the amount of kudzu.
When using pesticides, always read and follow the directions on the label.
Charles Phillips is a retired Columbia County Extension Service agent and operates Hort Consulting. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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