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'Kudzu bug' can wreak havoc on area landscapes
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As we approach late summer, there are a few pesky critters we need to look for on our ornamental plants and turf grass.

As many of you will remember, last summer and fall brought an onslaught of the dreaded kudzu bug. Many homeowners, school maintenance grounds keepers and business owners were calling the extension office nonstop trying to identify this new olive colored oblong flying insect.

The bugs were reported on windows, doorstops, columns and some plants. Many of you became familiar with this mystery insect called the kudzu bug.

What is the kudzu bug and how do you control them?

The bug first appeared in 2009 and was probably imported in from the East. By the fall of 2010, the kudzu bug was reported in 60 counties in the state. At that time, the bug was being seen on the invasive kudzu vine and was overwintering in its lush foliage.

Some people are reporting sightings again this year, and by the end of the warm season, everyone will probably have come in contact with one.

The bug can produce a mildly offensive odor and can stain walls or carpet if disturbed. It is, after all, in the stinkbug family.

The concern now is that the bug is being seen on other plants such as peas, soybeans and other types of legumes.

They have been reported on some flowering and ornamental plants, too. The insects seem to hurt the vegetation by sucking juices from the leaves, leaving a scorched or burned look.

But for most people here, the problem is that they move from nearby kudzu patches onto warm, sunlit south and east exposures of homes and other buildings. They especially gravitate toward light-colored surfaces.

Keeping the stinky creatures from entering homes is the most important measure of control. Make sure screening is placed over points of entry, or stuff holes with steel wool.

Doors should be sealed tight when closed, and use a doorsweep if you can. The bugs will not sting or hurt. Vacuum the insects and put them in hot, soapy water to eradicate.

To keep them off the exterior of a home or building, usage of an insecticidal spray labeled for nuisance outdoor pests can be used.

Products such as Carbaryl (Sevin) and Ortho Fruit, Flower and Vegetable spray can be applied. Organic insecticidal soap, horticultural oil and Spinosad can also be used, but will require multiple applications because kudzu and surrounding vegetation remain a source of reinfestation.

Also, keep an eye out for the late summer armyworms that can invade turfgrass, especially bermudagrass.

In late summer, this caterpillar can invade and damage turfgrass leaving big patches of brown chewed-off blades of grass. Damage is mostly aesthetic, but these marching worms can severely damage, or kill, newly planted sod or sprigged areas.

Adult armyworm moths are active at night. They lay masses of eggs which can hatch in a few days, and the young larvae feed on blades of grass. The more they eat, the bigger they grow. Larvae can feed for two to three weeks before pupating into the soil. Then the moth emerges from the soil in about two weeks. The entire life cycle takes about 28 days.

If you suspect armyworm damage, do the "soap test." Pour soapy water on the grass during the day and if they are present, they will surface to the top.

Control of armyworms is simple once the problem is identified. Carbaryl (Sevin) works well and products containing permethrin and bifenthrin will also work. Dipel (Bt) can also be used for control.

Applications should be made as late into the evening as possible since this is the time they are the most active. About 25 gallons of solution per acre will ensure good coverage. Do not cut the grass for three days after application.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the kudzu bug would devour all of the kudzu plants that have taken over, and then a great natural predator emerges and devours all of the kudzu bugs? Wishful thinking for now!

Wanda Cannon is a Master Gardener and serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the Hall County Extension office. Phone: 770-535-8293. Her column appears biweekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.

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