An insect best known for eating kudzu has made its way into Alabama. Charles Ray, an entomologist who works with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, says kudzu bug specimens have been collected in Cleburne and Cherokee counties in northeast Alabama.

Ray says the bean plataspid, Megacopta cribraria, has moved out of Georgia where it was first located last fall.

“Based on the information Georgia scientists collected in 2010, I expect the bean plataspid is already present in neighboring Dekalb County,” says Ray.

While the discovery of an insect that eats kudzu may sound good, it has scientists concerned. Dr. Ayanava Majumdar, an Extension entomologist, says while an insect that eats kudzu sounds like a great thing, scientists are concerned about what else the insect might find good to eat.

“It was just reported for the first time in the United States in October 2009 where it was found feeding on kudzu in north Georgia,” he says. “Our concern is that we don’t know what impact it will have on other crops.”

He explains that kudzu is a legume, making it a relative of sorts to some agronomic crops including soybeans, peanuts, alfalfa and clover. Scientists are worried that the insect might be a threat to these crops. Ray agrees with Majumdar that there is reason to be concerned.

A new insect pest threat to these crops could have a serious impact on the state’s agriculture. Both soybeans and peanuts are major crops in the state. In Alabama this year, more than 10 million bushels of soybeans were harvested from about 360,000 acres. Around 190,000 acres of peanuts were planted in 2010 in the state, yielding almost 495 million pounds.

Damaging levels in Georgia

“It seems to have already reached economically damaging levels on soybeans in Georgia,” Ray says.

Ray and his colleague, Xing Ping Hu will be tracking the insects’ movements in Alabama.

“If anyone finds this insect, I want to know about it and the location,” he says. “If it’s on a plant, it would be very helpful to know what type of plant as well.” Ray can be reached at (334) 844-3836 or (334) 844-4336 or at raychah@auburn.edu.

Hu, an Extension entomologist whose work focuses on household pests, notes that the insect can also be a headache for homeowners. Like the Asian lady beetles that many Alabamians are familiar with, the bean plataspid is often attracted to homes in response to declining temperatures, where they seek secluded sites to spend the winter months. She says it may be attracted to the southern and southeastern sides of light-colored homes.

“They may appear by the thousands,” says Hu. “The news we have from our Georgia colleagues is that it is currently flying in large numbers to homes and is becoming a nuisance pest.”

In addition, she says homeowners might notice the bug’s odor if crushed. “Homeowners in Georgia have reported the insects have an unpleasant or bitter smell. It sounds as if they live up to one of their other common names, the globular stink bug.”

Homeowners who are confronting an infestation should call their county Extension office or contact Hu at (334) 844-5002 or huxingp@aces.edu.

Adults are about 5 mm long and have a humped body. They have beak-like mouthparts and hardened fore wings that cover a pair of soft hind wings used for flying.

Additional information coming from other areas of the Southeast can be found at http://southeastfarmpress.com/management/brown-marmorated-stink-bug-real-threat-southeast-crops

Other Resources:

“One year later, kudzu bug spreads across state” Georgia Extension News Story.

Kudzu Bug Arrives In Georgia — UGA YouTube Video

Kudzu Bug Arrives in Georgia (Spanish Version)— UGA YouTube Video

Kudzu Bug Infesting Soybeans — Georgia Extension

Megacopta cribraria as a Nuisance Pest — Georgia Extension