What is in this article?:
• 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.
• Regardless of their family tree, the kudzu bug is becoming a bigger problem in agriculture as they spread throughout the Southeast.
BOWMAN, S.C., grower Landrum Weathers checks for kudzu bugs in soybeans at his family farm.
Since it was first found in and around Atlanta, Ga., in October of 2009, it has spread to all 46 counties in South Carolina and more than 40 counties in North Carolina. Though its movement has been primarily south to northeast, it has also been reported in several counties in Alabama.
In 2010, it was found in only 16 counties in South Carolina and was not found in North Carolina. Greene says there was an extensive checking program in both Carolinas in 2010 and the counties in South Carolina were the only ones in which it was found.
How it moves so rapidly may best be explained by looking at our prevailing weather patterns, Greene contends. From its epicenter, the insects have moved mostly north and northeast, or the path of our most prevalent weather patterns. The bigger question is where will it go next?
Virginia Tech Entomologist Ames Herbert says researchers in Virginia are looking for kudzu bugs, but so far none have shown up in an assortment of traps that are generally accurate at detecting insects, even at low populations.
In its native Asia, kudzu bugs prefer kudzu to crops. However, it is well adapted to wild wisteria and a broad range of host plants commonly found in the Southeastern U.S. Greene says all indications are that this pest will continue to grow and spread and potentially be an economic threat to crops in the Southeast.
Kudzu bugs have proven to be susceptible to a wide range of insecticides, but Greene explains the problem is exactly what Weathers and other growers in South Carolina are finding that late in the season, killing them isn’t the problem, getting the insecticide to the bugs is the problem.
“These bugs are very specific on where they feed on soybeans. They occupy the bottom part of the canopy and feed on the stems and leaf petioles. More mature bugs are often found on the main stem of the soybean plant — very near the ground,” Greene says.
There isn’t much a grower can do to protect late-season beans from these insects. “And, with all the wild hosts available around our soybean fields, there isn’t really much they can do in planning for the 2012 season to reduce pressure from kudzu bugs,” he adds.
A part of the control strategy will likely be to knock populations down as early in the season as possible. “We have seen that well timed insecticide applications can slow down, if not prevent large buildups of these insects later in the season when it becomes more difficult to get material through the plant to the bug,” Greene says.