Kudzu bugs, those tenacious little imports from Asia, continue to spread across the Southeast and continue to plague soybean growers, especially in the Carolinas.

Though these tiny sucking bugs can do significant damage to soybeans, sometimes it’s the threat of damage, combined with the large numbers of these pests found in a field that can cost growers the most money.

North Carolina State University Entomologist Dominic Reisig says, in general this year, many acres in North Carolina were treated for kudzu bugs that didn’t need to be treated.

“For sure, kudzu bugs can damage soybeans. In untreated tests we’ve seen up to 50 percent yield loss, but averaged nearly 20 percent across untreated soybeans,” he says.

In South Carolina, Clemson Entomologist Jeremy Greene says soybean yield losses of up to 20 percent in untreated fields were seen last year. This year farmers seem to be keeping a careful watch out for these pests and monitoring various information sources to stay ahead of these bugs, he adds.

There is a website dedicated to kudzu bug monitoring and management (www.kudzubug.org) that has an easy to use population threshold that can be used to determine when to spray.

It also has timely updates on movement of kudzu bugs, insecticide control, identification photos and other tips for managing this new pest.

“Kudzu bug is so new and so potentially damaging to crops that growers just don’t know what to do. I had one agent tell me one of his growers found one adult kudzu bug in a field, and he sprayed the field. That’s one end of the extreme and the other is waiting too late to manage populations of these bugs,” Reisig says.

It’s hard to know how much economic damage these new bugs will cause, because the game keeps changing.

This spring entomologists from Georgia to Virginia found kudzu bugs in commercial soybeans in the spring for the first time. However, the total history with these bugs is only two or three years and this springtime appearance in commercial soybean fields created a whole new set of criteria to consider.