Beware Of Kudzu Bug In The Southeast

Be on the lookout for kudzu bugs this spring, especially on early-planted soybeans, which are more susceptible to this pest. Luckily, insecticides can kill this species to minimize yield loss, but the key is timing.

Relatively new to the U.S., this nuisance pest feeds on the stem and leaf petioles of soybean plants. First found here in 2009, the kudzu bug now infests all of South Carolina, most of Georgia and North Carolina, and parts of Alabama, Virginia, Florida, Tennessee and Mississippi.

“As of now, there’s no natural control in containing this bug, and it’s about to jump over the Mississippi River and get into some serious soybean acres in the Midsouth,” says Jeremy Greene, Ph.D., professor of entomology at Clemson University. “This insect usually outcompetes all other species in a field and can cause yield losses exceeding 50% when left unchecked.”

Kudzu bugs produce two generations per year — once in late spring/early summer during early growth stages of kudzu plants and early-planted soybeans. Then they produce the second generation near the end of the growing season, before kudzu bugs start to look for overwintering sites. The species prefers legumes and uses kudzu plants and soybeans as primary reproductive hosts.

Experts recommend applying an insecticide shortly after finding immature insects. Farmers who spray too early might need to re-treat.

Here are some other treatment recommendations, which are included in the Soy Checkoff Kudzu Bug Informational Guide:

  • Many of the insecticides recommended for use on stink bugs can be used to control kudzu bugs.
  • Apply an insecticide when sweep-net sampling catches one immature insect per sweep.
  • A potential cost-saving treatment would be to apply insecticide along border rows to mitigate populations that develop around field perimeters.

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