You may think that I’m a little late writing an article about this little creature. OK, I am, but I really wanted to see how much of an impact it would have by the middle of summer. It turns out that it is making a mess out of some of our agricultural crops. I’m talking about the kudzu or kuzu bug or Megacopta cribraria (F.), if you prefer the Latin. Kuzu is the Japanese spelling.
This little creature which resembles the Asian Lady Beetle or Ladybug in size and shape was discovered in 2009 in Atlanta. How it got there is unknown but its suspect they hitchhiked in on an airplane or commercial truck. Once here, they multiplied at an incredible rate. The kudzu bug is a member of the stinkbug family, so you don’t want to step on it. They have piercing-sucking mouthparts and can inflict serious damage as they roam. They are strong fliers so, in a very short time they spread from Atlanta to several other counties in Georgia. Considering the amount of kudzu in Georgia, most experts thought this would be a blessing and the kudzu problem would soon be reduced. What wasn’t know at the time, was that this little guy (girl) also likes legumes, and that meant that soybeans, field peas, green beans and peanut crops were in danger. The bugs also seem to like wisteria but won’t harm most other ornamentals, although they may nest on them.
In less than three years, the kudzu bug has spread into most of the Deep South and is moving North at an alarming rate. Most agriculture experts think that the Midwest’s large soybean fields are in danger if the kudzu bug can withstand very cold temperatures.
We do, however, have a little information on that subject. Last fall, the Clemson Extension telephones were ringing constantly with complaints about a little gray-green bug. It seems that they were collecting on the warm side of homes and trying to find entry points. It didn’t take long to identify the kudzu bug as an insect that doesn’t like cold temperatures. Like the ladybug, it wants to winter in your home where the temperature is in the 70s most of the time or the 60s if you are in my home.
Well, we have finally reached the reason for this article; “How do we control these pests?” Spraying pesticides is not the best method since the bugs are usually at the highest areas of the house walls. The spray will get on everything below and may contaminate some delicate items. If you have to spray, do it when conditions are calm and at night when bees are not present. You may want to blow them off with a strong stream of water and attack them while they are recovering on the ground. They don’t bite, so you can pick them up but, as mentioned before, don’t squish them! The bugs also prefer light colors such as white, yellow or pink. As the sun warms the house, they gather by the hundreds, warm themselves and search for an entry point into your home. Now is the time to inspect your fascia boards, soffits, siding and roof shingles to confirm that your home is bug proof. If not, you may have unexpected company for the winter.
So what do you do if the little creatures find a way into your home? If you have a dog or a cat, they will probably find them first. You do not want that to happen since the results will usually be a squashed bug. A squashed bug will mean a very strange smell and a pet with a stinky paw to spread that smell around the house.
Use the ladybug method of control. Wait until dark and turn on one lamp. Allow enough time for the ladybugs or kudzu bugs to gather around or near the light. They are attracted to the light and the additional warmth. Then, vacuum them up and dispose of the contaminated bag. You can submerge the bag into soapy water to kill the bugs. Don’t forget to replace the bag, and remember not to crush them. Not only will you have a smelly house but the liquid will release a pheromone that may remain for several years. This will attract next year’s brood and the cycle will continue.
As mentioned in previous articles, all calls to the Clemson Extension do not end happily. I was busy in another room making copies of a Clemson publication. One of our interns was in the Master Gardener office when a Wagener resident called in with several questions about his vegetable and fruit garden. He wanted to do everything organically and he mentioned that he had a few animals that provided him with fertilizer. He spent a few minutes discussing the benefits of using this product while the Intern listened. When I came back into the room the intern handed me the telephone just as the caller said: “Is it OK to put manure on my strawberries?” Not hearing any of the previous conversation, I answered: “Have you ever tried cream and sugar?” That ended the call from Wagener. Sir, if you are reading this, please call back.
Aiken is in a stage 4 drought. We are classified as “severe” with only “extreme” left as stage 5. Give your lawn an extra half inch of water each week. Raise your lawn mower blade one notch to help retain moisture. Make sure that dogwood trees and crape myrtles are getting extra water. Irrigation systems are not enough to water as deeply as these plants require. Also, remember the azaleas. They are also very shallow rooted.
The next Lunchbox Lecture will be held at Trinity United Methodist Church 2724 Whiskey Road on Monday, August 20th at noon. Master Gardener, Sandy Randall will speak on “Perennials You Can Plant Now”. The Master Gardeners will be at the Farmers Market on Saturday, Aug. 4, from 8 a.m. to noon.
“Happy Gardening” Roland Alston! We will all miss your plaid shirts and incredible knowledge!