Kudzu Bug: All You Need to Know in a Nutshell

The Kudzu Bug, a small olive-green insect with brown speckles, has become a concerning agricultural pest in recent years. Originally introduced in Georgia, this critter has since spread to neighboring states, causing significant damage to soybean crops and other plants, such as wisteria and vetches source.

Belonging to the “true bugs” group, Kudzu Bugs have piercing-sucking mouthparts, allowing them to feed on a wide range of legumes source. Despite their appetite for Kudzu, a notorious invasive plant species, their impact on other crops and native vegetation has raised concerns among farmers and environmentalists alike.

Kudzu Bug Identification and Distribution

Megacopta Cribraria

The Kudzu Bug, scientifically known as Megacopta Cribraria, is a small, greenish-brown insect native to Asia. They are oval-shaped and approximately 4-6mm in length.

  • Features:
    • Greenish-brown color
    • Oval shape
    • 4-6mm in length

Countries and States Affected

The Kudzu Bug is known to feed on the Kudzu plant, which is native to China but has become an invasive species in the southeastern United States. The bug was first identified in the United States in Georgia in 2009 and has since spread to several other states. The affected states include:

  • Georgia
  • South Carolina
  • North Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Florida
  • Virginia
  • Alabama
State Year of First Detection
Georgia 2009
South Carolina 2010
North Carolina 2010
Tennessee 2012
Florida 2013
Virginia 2013
Alabama 2014

The Kudzu Bug’s rapid spread has caused concerns due to its potential impact on agricultural crops, particularly soybeans, and the overall ecosystem. It is essential to monitor their distribution and implement management strategies to control their population.

Kudzu Bug Life Cycle

Eggs

Kudzu bugs lay small eggs that are barrel-shaped and pale green, often found in groups on the host plant’s leaves and stems. A female can lay up to 200 eggs during her lifetime. The eggs hatch into nymphs within around a week.

Nymphs

Nymphs are the immature stage of the kudzu bug. They are bright green and have piercing-sucking mouthparts for feeding on plants. As they grow, nymphs molt through several instars, each marked by color and size changes. This process takes about 2 to 3 weeks before they mature into adults.

Adults

Adults are about 4 to 6 mm long, olive-green colored with brown speckles, and oblong in shape (source). Kudzu bugs can feed on various legumes, including soybeans, wisteria, and other bean species. As temperatures cool in the fall, adults seek overwintering sites, including the bark of trees, leaf litter, and cracks in buildings.

Pros and cons of kudzu bug:

  • Pros: Can potentially control the invasive kudzu plant.
  • Cons: Harmful to economically important crops, such as soybeans.

Comparison between kudzu bug life stages:

Life Stage Size/Color Feeding Habits Duration
Eggs 1 mm Not applicable (undeveloped) 1 week
Nymphs 2-5 mm, Green Feed on plant juices 2-3 weeks
Adults 4-6 mm, Olive-green Feed on legumes A season+

In conclusion, the kudzu bug life cycle consists of eggs, nymphs, and adults, with each stage having distinct characteristics and feeding habits.

Agricultural Impact

Soybean Fields

Kudzu bugs are a severe economic pest that affects soybean fields in states like Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina ¹. Farmers face challenges controlling the kudzu bug population and preventing damage to their soybean crops.

These insects are known to feed not only on kudzu but also on a wide variety of legumes, including soybeans and various bean species ².

Yield Losses

Kudzu bug infestation can lead to significant yield losses for soybean farmers. For example:

  • Reduced soybean production due to damaged plants
  • Increased costs for pest control methods

Pros of Kudzu Bug Control Methods:

  • Reduces yield losses and damage to soybean plants

Cons of Kudzu Bug Control Methods:

  • May require increased pesticide use
  • Some control methods may be ineffective or slow to show results

To help understand the impact of kudzu bugs on soybean production, see the comparison table below:

Factor Kudzu Bug-Infested Soybean Fields Healthy Soybean Fields
Yield Reduced due to damaged plants Higher yields
Costs Increased for pest control Lower costs
Quality Lower due to pest damage High quality

¹ https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/kudzu-bug

² https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/kudzu-bug-a-nuisance-and-agricultural-pest

Host Plants and Infestation

Kudzu Vine

Kudzu bugs primarily feed on kudzu vine, an invasive weed introduced to the United States in the late 1800s1. The insects:

  • Pierce the vine to extract water and nutrients
  • Can stunt the growth of kudzu plants

Wisteria

Wisteria is another host plant of kudzu bugs2. The bugs:

  • Particularly target young foliage
  • May reduce the overall vigor of the plant

Legumes and Other Edibles

Kudzu bugs also infest legume plants2, including:

  • Green beans
  • Peas
  • Soybeans (severe economic pest1)

In addition to the host plants mentioned above, kudzu bugs may occasionally use other plants as “rest areas” during migration3.

Comparing the host plants:

Host Plant Severity of Infestation
Kudzu Vine High
Wisteria Moderate
Legumes Moderate-High
Other Low

Control and Management

Chemical Control

Chemical control is one method of managing kudzu bugs. Insecticides such as bifenthrin and permethrin can be applied by an exterminator. Some pros and cons of chemical control are:

  • Pros:

    • Effective in reducing kudzu bug populations
    • Works quickly
  • Cons:

    • May harm non-target organisms
    • Potential environmental concerns

Biological Control

An alternative control method is biological control. Kudzu bugs were not intentionally introduced to manage kudzu vine; however, they can help control its growth. Natural enemies such as parasitic wasps help to manage kudzu bug populations.

Physical and Cultural Control

Physical and cultural control methods focus on preventing kudzu growth and bug habitat. Some strategies include:

  • Removing kudzu vine manually or mechanically
  • Planting competitive species that can outcompete kudzu for resources
  • Regular monitoring to detect kudzu bug infestations

USDA has found that combined management programs can control kudzu vines more effectively than individual methods.

Method Advantages Disadvantages
Chemical Control Fast-acting, effective on kudzu bugs Can harm non-target organisms
Biological Control Targets specific pests, eco-friendly May not eliminate kudzu bug entirely
Physical & Cultural Prevents kudzu growth, manages habitat Labor-intensive, requires monitoring

Kudzu Bug Interactions with Humans

Nuisance Pest

The Kudzu Bug, also known as the globular stink bug, is a true bug belonging to the family Plataspidae. This insect is a nuisance pest for several reasons, including:

  • Emitting a foul odor when disturbed or crushed
  • Congregating on light-colored surfaces, especially on the exterior of homes
  • Damaging various plants with their piercing mouthparts

One notable comparison is between Kudzu Bugs and Boxelder Bugs, as both pests tend to gather on homes and emit unpleasant odors. However, they are different species with distinct appearances and damage potential to plants.

Home and Garden Issues

The Kudzu Bug is not only bothersome outside the home, but can also cause problems in gardens. They have a preference for plants like kudzu, wisteria, and soybean crops, which they can significantly damage. Gardeners might encounter some resident_issues when dealing with these pests.

Manual removal is one option for controlling Kudzu Bugs, but care should be taken to avoid skin contact as their secretions might cause irritation. Using gloves when removing them from plants or surfaces is highly recommended.

Another method often employed by homeowners is using soapy water to drown the insects. This involves mixing a soap and water solution in a spray bottle, then spraying it directly onto the bugs to kill them.

It’s important to note that Kudzu Bugs are not beetles and should not be confused with them. A key difference between the two is their mouthparts – true bugs have piercing mouthparts, while beetles have chewing mouthparts.

Here’s a comparison table to help differentiate Kudzu Bugs from beetles:

Feature Kudzu Bug Beetle
Mouthpart type Piercing Chewing
Family Plataspidae Coleoptera
Odor Yes No

Although Kudzu Bugs are not edible, some people might try to store them in a freezer to control their populations. This method is not recommended, as freezing temperatures might not effectively kill the bugs, and it’s best to utilize other means of pest control.

In conclusion, Kudzu Bugs create various issues for humans, ranging from being a smelly nuisance to causing damage in home gardens. While there are several ways to manage their populations, it’s crucial to identify the correct insect and use appropriate control methods.

Research and Education

Kudzu bugs, an invasive insect species, have rapidly spread across the Southeastern United States. They are primarily known for being pests in soybean crops and feeding on the invasive kudzu plant1. Clemson University and the Edisto Research and Education Center have conducted studies on the biology, distribution, management, and impact of the bugs on agriculture and environment2.

These insects have several distinguishing features:

  • Slightly larger than a ladybug3
  • Square, flattened body
  • Olive-green color with brown speckles4

Kudzu bugs lay egg masses on kudzu plant nodes with an incomplete metamorphosis life cycle5. Their presence can become a nuisance when they cluster on white house siding, white cars, and other surfaces6.

Management Methods

Controlling kudzu bugs requires proper timing and usage of different strategies. Some methods include:

  • Using hot, soapy water to remove bugs from surfaces
  • Employing spray pesticides that are pyrethrin-based

For more severe infestations, consider using chemical insecticides like lambda-cyhalothrin7. However, these should be used carefully as they can potentially harm aquatic life when used near storm drains or water bodies8. Keep in mind that while kudzu bugs are pests, they also play a role in controlling the invasive kudzu plant, similar to how cluster flies feed on plant pests9.

Footnotes

  1. USDA ARS 2 3

  2. NC State Extension Publications 2 3

  3. University of Georgia 2

  4. https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/kudzu-bug-a-nuisance-and-agricultural-pest

  5. https://extension.entm.purdue.edu/publications/E-253/E-253.pdf

  6. https://catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/sites/catalog/files/project/pdf/em9139.pdf

  7. https://www.epa.gov/pesticides/pesticides-and-public-health

  8. https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/ID/ID-283-W.pdf

  9. https://www.entomology.cornell.edu/Extension/PDFs/Resource%20Guides/Cluster.pdf

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Lablab Bugs

 

Looks like a Lady Bug with a Trapezoid Back
Location: Upstate South Carolina
October 15, 2011 1:34 pm
I have many of these dark bugs…they look like lady bugs except they have dark brown shells that are trapezoid shaped. They tend to cluster. Any ideas?
Signature: Stephen

Lablab Bugs

Dear Stephen,
You have invasive exotic Lablab Bugs that feed on Kudzu as well as soybeans.  We just posted another letter and we refer you to the information there.

Letter 2 – New Invasive Species in Georgia: Bean Plataspid or Lablab Bug

 

Weird bug in Atlanta
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
January 15, 2011 2:09 pm
This picture shows a bug that is inside my home. This bug congregates with dozens of others like him on two windows. These two windows get a good amount of sunlight, so it’s a warm sunny spot. I also have spider plants hanging in these windows, and they are all over the plants, too. The bug has a squarish shape, is hard, dark and flies. I keep vacuuming them up, but more appear! They seem to be endless.
Signature: Lauren

Bean Plataspid or Lablab Bug

Hi Lauren,
We were not at all familiar with this True Bug, but we thought it resembled a Stink Bug so we began to search BugGuide.  We quickly identified your Bean Plataspid,
Megacopta cribraria, which is also commonly called a Globular Stink Bug as well as the very unusual name Lablab Bug according to BugGuide.  BugGuide also indicates it was:  “Recently found in ne. GA; native to India and China, known also from many parts of e. & se. Asia to Australia and New Caledonia” and that “Found in the US on kudzu; known hosts include legume crops, especially soybean.”  Furthermore, BugGuide remarks:  “in Oct. 2009 was invading homes in large numbers in GA.”  Thank you for submitting your question so that we are able to inform our readership of this new Invasive Exotic species.

Lablab Bugs

Wow, that was fast.  And… ew!  Thanks!

Letter 3 – Lablab Bugs

 

Odd Bug ”Infestation”
Location: Lawrenceville Georgia
April 8, 2012 5:27 pm
A couple of years ago I noticed this bug showing up in Spring by the swarms. They are currently taking up residence in one of my maples. They show up Middle of March and I’m not sure when they leave. They are about 1/4” – square shaped and dark green mottled tops and a creamy to brown underneath. They live in large colonies. At first they pretty much swarm all over the house and deck (much like the ladybugs do during their migration) but then they settle in on this maple tree. They are all over the branches – but tend to horde around the new growth tips.
I can’t see any aphids or other bugs they would be feeding on – and I can’t see that they are making any nests or webs – but several of the new leaves on these branches are dying. I’m not sure if the death and the bugs are related but wanted to find out.
Any help identifying these guys is much appreciated.
Signature: TJ

Lablab Bugs

Dear TJ,
You are being troubled by Lablab Bugs,
Megacopta cribraria, an invasive species accidentally introduced from China several years ago that is spreading through the South.  They are also known as Bean Plataspids or Kudzu Bugs, and they are known to feed on the invasive Kudzu plant, which is a good thing, however, they can also become a pest on certain legume crops.  According to BugGuide:  “Found in the US on kudzu; known hosts include legume crops, especially soybeans.”  BugGuide also states:  “may invade homes in large numbers; may become a household pest.  There are seriously mixed emotions about this highly invasive species: on the one hand, it seems to prefer kudzu, itself a highly invasive and damaging species, but it also has the potential to be a very serious pest of several important leguminous crops- not to mention its bad habit of invading homes in search of winter shelter.”  BugGuide makes no mention of them feeding on maple, but the new leaf die-off you describe is consistent with the damage caused by plant feeding insects in the order Hemiptera that have piercing and sucking mouthparts and that feed on the fluids of plants.

Letter 4 – Lablab Bugs

 

LadyBug?!?
Location: Longs, Sc
May 3, 2012 4:29 pm
Could you please identify this bug for me and tell me how i can stop the madness. They swarm all over our house, gutters, siding, outdoor plants, everything…all day long..it has been very warm and sunny here and they have been here for about 2 weeks now but it is becoming increasingly more difficult..we cant even go outside during the day. Please help me identify these bugs and find a solution to get our backyard back.
Signature: Coral’s Mom

Lablab Bug

Dear Coral’s Mom,
When an insect, other animal or plant is accidentally introduced to an area that is not its typical range, it must have certain conditions met to survive.  It must have a climate conducive to its survival and it must have a food supply.  When that happens it can become naturalized and without natural predators, it might become proliferate to the point it crowds out native species.  It is then an invasive exotic species.  Many years ago, Kudzu was introduced to the south and it has grown unchecked.  More recently, Lablab Bugs, were accidentally introduced to Georgia.  The good news is that they eat Kudzu.  The bad news is that they will eat other crops and they are multiplying and spreading.  You have Lablab Bugs.

Lablab Bugs

Thank you so much for identifying that bug for us.  Now, this is probably something I need to call an exterminator about?. They are literally taking over the whole southside of my house and plants and trees. Thanks!

We do not endorse extermination in most situations.  We doubt in this case if extermination will eliminate the problem.  You need to locate where they are reproducing and remove the food source, probably kudzu.

I have no kudzu around but they are on my wysteria bush.  Thanks for your help.

Letter 5 – Lablab Bugs have ingenious method to expand range!!!

 

lablab bug
Location: Brunswick County, NC
April 17, 2012 2:32 pm
I am a pest control business owner. This is not a question but to help you follow this insect. I found numerous lablab bugs laying eggs on the window of a trailer in the country in North Carolina just 10 miles north of the NC/SC state line near the coast. P.S. I don’t have a pic so I sent you a random one so I could email this.
Signature: Robert J. Russ

Lablab Bugs (photo from our archive)

Dear Robert,
Thank you for helping to explain how the invasive exotic Lablab Bugs may be expanding their range.  We found a photo from our archives to accompany your submission.

Letter 6 – Lablab Bugs invade home in Georgia

 

unknown bug
Location: Lincolnton, GA
August 2, 2011 10:30 pm
8/1/11
These started showing up a week ago a few at a time and have increased to hundreds today (pic 1). Some have laid what seems to be an egg pattern similar to the Harlequin Bug (pic 2).
Thanks
Signature: Jeff McKinney

Lablab Bugs

Hi Jeff,
Your home has been invaded by a recent introduced Invasive Exotic species, the Bean Plataspid,
Megacopta cribraria, also knows as the Globular Stink Bug or Lablab Bug.  The Bean Plataspid was recently introduced to Georgia from India or China, where it is native.  It has since been reported in South Carolina as well, according to BugGuide which reports:  “in Oct. 2009 was invading homes in large numbers in GA”.  The University of Georgia Cooperative Education website has a very informative PDF entitled Megacopta cribraria as a Nuisance Pest.  The Lablab Bug is known to invade homes when cool weather sets in. 

Lablab Bugs

According to BugGuide, known food plants are legumes including soybeans, and though this Invasive Exotic species has many negative attributes, a benefit is that its primary host plant is reported to be kudzu, owing to yet another common name, Kudzu Bug.  If you have kudzu growing nearby, you might want to consider trying to control the invasive vine before the insect population reaches an uncontrollable level, though your photo indicates that time may have already passed.  The Nature Closeups photography blog has some great photos of the Lablab Bug.

Eggs of the Lablab Bug

 

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

8 thoughts on “Kudzu Bug: All You Need to Know in a Nutshell”

  1. Ok posted comment in the fall about these Lablab’s. The mild winter did not help. When the temp hit low 80 for a couple of days-they are now out in force. How can we get rid of them?

    Reply
    • Hi Roland,
      We do not give extermination advice, but perhaps one of our readers may be able to provide you with information. Since they are found in association with the invasive kudzu vines, you might want to try eliminating the kudzu you have growing on your property.

      Reply
  2. from my understanding they a kuzuu beetles . I think that is how you spell it. they were put out by the gov to cut down on some of the kuzuu that has overtaken native species. kuzuu was brought here from some where like china or japan and that’s where the beetles are from also, I think

    Reply
    • They are not beetles, but true bugs in the order Hemiptera. While we are aware of the common name Kudzu Bug, Megacopta cribraria, Lablab Bug is also an accepted common name. This is the first we have heard that they are an intentional introduction. According to BugGuide: “native to e./se. Asia, adventive in the US & Australia” and “highly invasive species of mixed impact: it seems to prefer kudzu (a highly invasive and damaging plant), but can also become a serious pest of leguminous crops.” If this was a government introduction, it was a goof. We decided to research this. According to Eat the Invaders: “Kudzu was first brought to the U.S. by Japan, which promoted it as an ornamental and as a forage crop at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. By 1900, its fragrant grape-scented purple flowers and the vine’s ability seemingly to cover a trellis in a night had made it popular on porches throughout the Southeastern US. Despite the warning of a visionary biologist named David Fairchild in 1902 that this vine could become something new to the scientific community, an “invasive species,” kudzu was planted through the South, first as livestock feed, then as erosion control along highways. Farmers were paid to plant the stuff in the 1940s. … But recently the story took a fascinating turn. Invasives often thrive in the absence of native predators, competitors, or parasites. In 2009, what’s been dubbed the kudzu bug was identified in the South, a brand new invader from Asia. It eats kudzu–joy of joys–but that’s not all it eats. It devours soybeans, too, a huge moneymaker of a crop. What’s the solution?” According to North Carolina Cooperative Education: “The kudzu bug (bean plataspid, globular stinkbug) was first discovered on kudzu vine in the vicinity of Atlanta, Georgia, during the fall of 2009. From this initial accidental introduction (this pest was NOT intentionally introduced to manage kudzu), kudzu bug has quickly become established as a severe economic pest of soybean in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.”

      Reply
  3. Do lablab bugs stink when you kill them?? Bc that just happens to a bug I killed. Didn’t know what it was so looked on here. But I had to spray all around the area I killed it with some perfume is this a lablab bug?

    Reply
  4. Thanks for help identifying my lone Lablab bug found on my bed in late Nov in eastern Ky. Hopefully there are no “friends” lurking about.
    I have no close kudzu but it’s nearby on the river bank and in wooded areas.
    We had an abundance of the plant in our garden in Greenville , SC during the 1990’s where we saw tree roaches snd red fire ants.
    Thank you

    Reply
  5. I have these all over my house in NJ & i think they are biting us HELP! 2 months of cleaning, spraying Ortho Home Defense by the gallons & 3 fog/bomb events in the house. Still seeing them, ugh!!

    Reply

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