Pest Alert: Kudzu Bugs Bugging People
Date: March 23, 2012
From: Mike Waldvogel and Patty Alder, Extension Entomology
I’ve gotten several calls/complaints about kudzu bugs covering and invading buildings. Most of these reports are coming from western North Carolina. If you haven’t heard about the kudzu bug, you will this year. The bugs have been passing the winter in various locations (both indoors and outside) and are now gearing up for a new season. This is another example of the serious problems that confront us with invasive species (this particular one coming from Asia). Most people are familiar with the Asian lady beetle which is a well-documented nuisance to homeowners and businesses, but is beneficial in what it eats (other insects). In the case of the kudzu bug, although it does eat kudzu it also likes to dine on important field crops like soybeans. Dominic Reisig and Jack Bacheler in the Entomology Department are working on that aspect of the kudzu invasion. If you want to see an example of how high the numbers can reach in soybeans, check out this video clip: http://video.bugwood.org/browse/detail.cfm?vidnum=00000048.
On the residential/industrial side of things, you will get calls from people wanting a solution to the kudzu bug. Unfortunately, this is another case where you’re not going to have a happy client on the phone. First, the pesticides that are available to consumers are simply not going to have the type of residual activity needed to impact on the bugs. Second (and perhaps more importantly), people simply do not have the equipment or common sense when it comes to treating the exterior of their homes. Applying pesticides solely around the windows and doors is unlikely to stop the invasion. Trying to treat higher areas of the house (e.g., the soffits, fascia and siding) poses a hazard of drift down and out from the house. There’s this thing called “gravity” and spraying over your head may land some chemical on surfaces but a lot is going to drop down back on you.
IF people choose to spray outside, they should select a wettable powder formulation over a liquid (particularly over a pre-mixed ready-to-use product). I’m not giving particular product names because I don’t know for a fact that they’d find that particular product in their area. They can ask a sales person for assistance. Don’t forget to tell them that there are no products out there right now that have kudzu bugs specifically listed on the label (and I doubt we’ll see that in the immediate future). Treating about 2-3 feet up the foundation and around the windows and doors should be their primary focus (after you’ve told them it probably won’t help as much as they think). If they choose to spray overhead areas, tell them to look around the property first and make sure to: a) cover or remove children’s toys, barbecue grills, pet food/water, etc., b) keep children and pets away from the area while you’re spraying and also until treated surfaces dry, and c) wear protective clothing: a hat, goggles, gloves and long-sleeved shirt and long pants, and try to position themselves upwind as much as possible.
Also, if any of you have been getting a lot of calls about kudzu bugs (particularly over in the Lincoln County area) please let me know. A graduate student in our department is collecting them (not all of them!) and he is traveling out to that area on Monday and is looking for some prime collecting locations (probably not with your more irate callers!)