Two grants have helped an Alabama Extension specialist and Auburn University professor gain several breakthrough insights into the kudzu bug.

Xing Ping Hu, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System entomologist and Auburn University professor in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, says her research has gained several breakthrough insights into the virulent kudzu bug, including the discovery of a native predator that could go a long way toward reducing the pest’s numbers.

The first grant of $50,000 was awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, while the second, totaling $30,000, was provided by the Extension Integrated Pest Management Coordination and Support Program to support Hu’s efforts to deliver her research findings to the people affected by the pest.

Her initial research findings have confirmed the pest’s remarkable adaptability to new environments.

“Since its detection in 2009, this stink bug has developed from an urban nuisance to a serious bean crop pest throughout the Southeast,” Hu says, adding that its rapidly expanding range, explosive population growth, severe damage to legume crops and vegetables, repulsive smell and difficulty to control have contributed to its elevated pest status.

“Sometimes you will see them feeding voraciously on all kinds of plants, including ornamental and horticultural plants, particularly in early spring and late fall when kudzu and soybean plants are unavailable or unsuitable for feeding.”

Despite a special affinity for legumes, such as kudzu and soybeans, they can adapt to many other species. To sustain their long flights during migration, the bugs have even been detected feeding on Queen Anne’s Lace, a common wild plant found along many Alabama roadsides.

Hu has also noted a penchant for long beans and green beans.