Just shy of a year from when it was first spotted in northeast Georgia, the insect now commonly called the “kudzu bug” continues to mystify homeowners and agricultural researchers.

A native of India and China, the bean plataspid (Megacopta cribraria) is pea-sized and brown with a broad posterior.

A legume-eater, its favorite menu items include both the famous weed kudzu and soybeans, a crop grown in Georgia for its oil.

Also commonly called lablab bug and globular stink bug, the newcomer releases a chemical — similar to the stink bug — when threatened. As kudzu is killed by fall frost, it may soon over-winter in droves around homes, something the more-common Asian lady beetle does.

“The difference is the bean plataspid is far more numerous than the lady bug,” says Wayne Gardner, an entomologist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

It likes to congregate on the sides of light-colored homes and vehicles, Gardner says. This time of year, the insects are most active in the afternoon when it's warm. Homeowners who live near kudzu patches can expect to see the kudzu bug as the weather turns cooler.

Gardner is one of a team of CAES scientists working to identify the insect's habits (other than munching on kudzu) and determine whether it will wreak havoc on Georgia's soybean crop.

Last fall, the bug was reported in Barrow, Clarke, Greene, Gwinnett, Hall, Jackson, Oconee and Walton counties. It can now be found in 68 counties as far south as Dooly County. “We expect to see it in additional counties this year before winter temperatures stop its spread for this growing season,” Gardner says.

He’s also seen the pest in the Carolinas and expects it to arrive in Alabama and Tennessee soon.

UGA entomologist Dan Suiter believes the bug arrived here by accident.