Kudzu has long been considered a nuisance in the South, but the bug that has recently been spotted in North Georgia munching on the prolific plant may prove to be even more of a pest.
“They look kind of like an engorged tick, but they are more brownish,” said Dan Suiter, an entomologist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
“And when they show up, there aren’t just a couple of them. Wherever they are, there are a lot of them.”
Besides showing up in large numbers the bugs, known as lablab bugs or globular stink bugs, have an unpleasant odor and like to take up residence on the sides of homes near kudzu patches.
“In the fall, when temperatures are reducing, the bugs are looking for a place to spend the winter so they are attracted to houses,” said Suiter.
So far, the bugs have been spotted in several areas including Hall, Jackson, Barrow and Gwinnett counties.
“I had a homeowner call and tell me that she had bugs crawling on the side of her house. I thought it may have been ladybugs but she said, ‘No, these aren’t ladybugs,’” said Mark Shirley, Jackson County 4-H Extension Services coordinator.
“She brought a few in and I didn’t know what they were, so I sent the sample to (Suiter) to see if he could identify them.”
In addition to the Braselton sample that was sent in by Shirley, Suiter also has received several samples of the bugs from multiple pest control companies in northern Georgia.
“About mid-October I started getting samples sent to me. We also have an insect diagnostic lab and they started getting samples too around the same time,” Suiter said.
“I didn’t know what it was, but on Oct. 28 I had a colleague visiting from Florida and there happened to be a sample vial on my desk and I showed it to him. He almost immediately knew what it was. I’m not exaggerating when I say that there are only a handful of people in the U.S. who could have identified the bug on sight because it’s not native to the U.S.”
One of the biggest mysteries surrounding the latest Georgia resident is how the bugs, natives of Asia, got here.
“I called a few entomologists around the Southeast to see if the (bugs) had ever been imported from Asia as a biological control, but I was told that they’d never been imported because (the bugs) were known to feed on soy beans and other legumes at that point,” said Suiter. “Kudzu is a legume, or a bean, so anything that is a bean might be susceptible. In addition to getting all over people’s houses, more importantly (the bugs) are potentially a threat to agriculture. Only time will tell how serious a threat they will become.”
Suiter said his department is working with both the U.S. and Georgia Departments of Agriculture to determine the distribution area of the bugs. In the meantime, he said there are things residents can do to protect their property from the bugs and to also further the research process.
“If you see the bugs, report them to your local (UGA) county extension office,” he said. “If you call 1-800-ASK-UGA1, no matter where you are in Georgia it will connect you to your county agent.
“If the bugs really begin to cause a problem, you can call pest control to come out and treat them. Ultimately, if you have kudzu that may be the best way to get them off your property.”