The kudzu bug came from China, landed in Atlanta, Ga. and in two short years has chewed up a variety of crops in every county in South Carolina, and has made good progress doing the same in North Carolina.

Technically, the kudzu bug isMegacopta cribraria, and is known in most parts of the world as bean plataspids, and in some areas as lablab bugs. The bugs, which look like boxy brown ladybugs, emit a foul-smelling secretion when threatened.

It is occurring in such high numbers it doesn’t take a trained entomologist to spot one. In most cases smelling them, not spotting them, is the first contact people get with these Asian imports.

In Georgia, where they first appeared in high numbers, witnesses have reported being able to smell the stench from their cars while crews are cutting kudzu overgrowth along highways.

The bean plataspid is native to India and China and is found in most soybean production areas of Asia.

The insect is pea-sized, greenish brown, and round with a wide posterior. It appears to waddle when it walks on a surface and is an excellent flier. Its flying ability helps account for its rapid spread across the Southeast.

Its life cycle typically lasts 7 weeks. However, the chemistry of the host plant can significantly affect the insect’s reproductive characteristics — such as fertility and length of generation — as well as its feeding rate, even the impact or level of damage it has on the host plant.

So far, entomologists have been astounded by its rapid movement, mostly north to south, throughout the Southeastern U.S.

Clemson University Entomologist Jeremy Greene says kudzu bugs were found in a handful of counties in his state last year. This year the bugs have been reported in every county in South Carolina.

Greene says the insects are often mistakenly referred to as stink bugs, but are in a different insect family than commonly occurring green, brown and Southern green stink bugs. Regardless of their family tree, the Clemson researcher says they are becoming a bigger problem in agriculture as they spread throughout the Southeast.

Bowman, S.C., grower Landrum Weathers says kudzu bugs came into his soybeans while the crop was still immature. Killing them was no problem, he says, but they kept coming back in bigger numbers after every spray.

The big problem with kudzu bugs in soybeans is getting insecticide to them. They tend to feed on the stems of leaves in the lower parts of the plant and once the soybean canopy covers the rows, it becomes a challenge to get enough chemical to the insects to manage high populations.

Adults and immature insects (nymphs) gather in large groups and suck sap from a host plant, weakening and stunting it. Adults have been observed sucking sap from the host plant’s leaves, stems, budding flowers, and mature green pods. Severe infestations of adults and nymphs feeding on leaf sap can cause extensive defoliation in host plants.