What is in this article?:
- Kudzu bug spreading across Georgia
- No natural enemies
Wayne 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.
No natural enemies
“We do have the world's busiest airport here (in Georgia), but we'll never know how the bug first got here,” Suiter says. “When it found kudzu here, it found a food source, and it doesn't have any natural enemies here that we are aware of.”
It’s an “invasive species feeding on an invasive species,” he says.
On the UGA campus in Griffin, Ga., Gardner and his staff are collecting bugs from various sites across the state and raising them in small plastic arenas containing kudzu leaves.
“In our labs, we’re trying to determine if they die from anything naturally,” Gardner says.
Introduced to the United States in 1876 from Japan, kudzu was planted in the 1930s to control soil erosion. It now tops the nation's invasive species list. The researchers have no idea what the insect's long-term impact on kudzu will be.
“It eats kudzu, which is good. But it also stinks and gets on homes, which is bad,” Gardner says. “And the ominous threat is that it eats soybeans and other legume crops.
In India and China, manually removing them is the most common way to control kudzu bugs. UGA scientists also want to determine how to control the pest around homes and whether or not to control it on agricultural crops.
“In soybeans right now, they are there in very high numbers in some locations,” says Phillip Roberts, a CAES entomologist studying the bug’s effect on agriculture.
Roberts has studies in fields to determine whether it’s more economical to treat the pest or leave fields untreated.
“It’s a true bug, but with needle-like mouthparts,” he says. “It feeds on stems, sap, leaves and petioles. The one observation we have made is it does not appear to feed on the developing pods, thank goodness.”
Each year, Georgia farmers plant about 350,000 acres of soybeans, which are primarily crushed for the cooking oil. Livestock animals are fed the leftover meal.