Monday, July 1, 2013

Kudzu Bug Q&A

by Xing Ping Hu, Extension Entomologist, Auburn University

What is a Kudzu bug?
The Kudzu bug is a small yellowish green lady-beetle-like insect. However, they are not a beetle, but a true stink bug with sucking mouths that sip the juice from plants.

They like to aggregate in clusters and release a very strong, foul odor that you can smell several feet away.

Kudzu bugs are also called lablab bugs, bean bugs, globular stink bugs, and bean plataspids.

Are they a new pest and where did they come from?
Yes, the Kudzu bug is a new pest for us in the United States. Many new people are being introduced to it every day. We will all have to learn the best ways to deal with it.

The Kudzu bug is native to Asia. Genetic markers indicate this bug was likely introduced from Japan.

When did they get here and how widely spread are they now?
It was first reported in Georgia in 2009 and spread to Alabama in October 2010. Since then, it has been spreading like wildfire. By the end of June, it has been confirmed in more than 430 counties across 9 Southern Region States. They are in all but 53 counties in Alabama right now.

How do they spread so rapidly?
Many factors aid in their fast dispersal:
  • Hitchhiking on vehicles, airplanes, shipments of products and equipment, and even humans
  • They are strong flyers themselves, capable of flying at least a couple of miles
  • They are attracted to white and lightly-colored surfaces
  • Propensity to migrate
  • Diverse and flexible life history and rapid population growth rate
  • Availability of primary hosts – kudzu plants and soybean crops
  • Most interestingly, the new finding in my lab shows a majority of the adult females become fertilized before overwintering. A single pregnant female can lay egg masses in a new location without the presence of male.
What plants do they infest?
Kudzu bugs are leguminous plant feeders. Their primary host is kudzu plants; that is how they got their name. Of the other leguminous crops, they prefer soybeans to vegetable beans and wisteria vine.

However, they must feed on kudzu or soybeans to be able to reproduce. It is common to see them aggregate and feed on non-legume plants in early spring and late fall when leguminous plants are not available.

If they have been in AL since 2010, why the sudden population outbreak in soybean crops this year?
During the first year of invasion, the population was basically limited to kudzu patches. However, because of the exponential growth, overcrowding populations started to move into soybean fields in 2012 and reached peak outbreak this year.

What is the pest status of kudzu bugs?
They were first considered a nuisance pest in residential areas, but are posing much greater threat than previously thought. In Asian countries, it is a serious pest of soybean and vegetable beans. Here in the United States, besides yield loss of soybeans, it poses threats to international trade of agricultural products to Central America, and is an urban nuisance.

What damages do they cause in soybean crops?
They are slow feeders, sucking plant juice and gradually drawing down a plant’s vigor. They do not eat holes in leaves and do not take bites from pods or seed.

When do kudzu bugs move onto soybean plants and how long they stay in soybean field?

It depends on whether you have early, middle, or later soybean crops and the climate. In 2013, we observed adults of an overwinter generation move to lay egg masses on early-planted soybean crops when they are about 1 ft tall. Nymphs appeared in late May and by the middle of June, nymph population had peaked across the entire soybean field. This was also the optimal time for control treatment.

You will see Kudzu bugs in the field until the soybean plants become unsuitable (not enough juice). Last year’s research showed that Kudzu bug population was greater in early-planted soybeans rather than later-planted soybeans. We are monitoring Kudzu bug population dynamics this year.