Kudzu Bug vs. Stink Bug: Unraveling Key Differences & Tips for Control

The kudzu bug and the stink bug are two distinct pests that may pester homeowners and gardeners alike. Both bugs come from Asia, but they differ in their invasion history and the damage they cause to plants and agriculture in the United States.

The kudzu bug, also known as Megacopta cribraria, bean plataspid, or globular stink bug, was first discovered in Georgia in 2009, likely having hitchhiked on a commercial airplane source. Meanwhile, the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) is another invasive pest that arrived in the US in the 1990s and was first spotted in North Carolina in 2009 source.

While both bugs are known to have a distinct odor, they differ in their choice of plants to feed on. Kudzu bugs are notorious for attacking kudzu vines, soybean crops, and wisteria source, while brown marmorated stink bugs are more generalist feeders and pests of various crops and fruit trees. In the paragraphs to come, we will explore their similarities and differences further, helping you identify and manage these pesky insects in your garden or home.

Kudzu Bug and Stink Bug Identification

Physical Characteristics

Kudzu bugs and stink bugs have some differences in physical appearance. Kudzu bugs are:

  • Olive green in color
  • Around 4-6mm in length
  • Oval-shaped body

Meanwhile, brown marmorated stink bugs (BMSB):

  • Have grayish-brown coloring
  • Measure 12-17mm long
  • Feature an almost shield-like shape

Both bugs possess distinctive antennae.

Bug Type Color Size (mm) Body Shape
Kudzu Bug Olive Green 4-6 Oval
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Grayish-Brown 12-17 Shield-like

Behavior Patterns

Kudzu bugs and stink bugs exhibit specific behaviors. Kudzu bugs:

  • Prefer to feed on plants such as kudzu vine, soybean, and wisteria
  • Originate from Asia, were first discovered in the US in Georgia in 2009

On the other hand, stink bugs:

  • Are also pests to fruit and vegetable crops
  • Have a similar point of origin, with BMSB being introduced from Asia in the 1990s
  • Arrived in North Carolina in 2009 and have since spread throughout the state

Origins and Distribution

Kudzu Bugs

Kudzu bugs (Megacopta cribraria) are native to Asia and were first introduced to the United States in 2009, likely arriving in Georgia on an inbound aircraft1. Since then, they have spread throughout several states, including North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, and Florida2.

  • Feeds on kudzu plants and soybean crops
  • Unintentionally introduced to the US

Stink Bugs

Stink bugs (Hemiptera: Heteroptera: Pentatomidae) are more widely distributed and have multiple species found in various regions in Asia and the United States3. Some notable species in the US include the brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys), which was first detected in Pennsylvania, and the green stink bug (Chinavia hilaris), native to the Southeastern United States4.

  • Multiple species with varying distribution
  • Presence in both Asia and the United States

Comparison Table:

Kudzu Bugs Stink Bugs
Origin Asia Asia and United States
Distribution Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida Pennsylvania, Southeastern United States, Asia
Introduction 2009 Varies by species

Impact on Agriculture

Affected Crops

Kudzu bugs and stink bugs have different feeding habits and affect different types of crops. Kudzu bugs are primarily attracted to legumes, such as:

  • Kudzu vines
  • Soybeans
  • Other bean species
  • Wisteria
  • Some vetches1

On the other hand, brown marmorated stink bugs cause damage to a wider range of crops, including:

  • Fruit crops like apples, peaches, and cherries
  • Vegetables like peppers, tomatoes, and sweet corn
  • Ornamental plants
  • Legumes like green beans and soybeans2

Yield Loss

Both bugs can cause significant yield losses in the affected crops. Kudzu bugs, for instance, can cause up to 50% yield loss in soybean crops3. Stink bugs damage fruits, vegetables, and legumes by piercing their mouthparts into the plant, causing deformation, discoloration, and in some cases, making the produce unmarketable4.

Control Methods

Control methods for kudzu bugs and stink bugs differ. For kudzu bugs, a combined management program, including mechanical, chemical, and biological control, can be more effective than individual methods5. In contrast, control methods for stink bugs often involve:

  • Monitoring and timely application of insecticides as necessary
  • Encouraging natural predators like lady beetles and lacewings
  • Mechanical exclusion, such as using fine mesh screens to protect small areas6

Comparison table

Bug Affected Crops Control Methods
Kudzu Bug Legumes (soybeans, beans, and kudzu) Combined management program (mechanical, chemical, and biological control)
Stink Bug Fruits, vegetables, ornamental plants, and legumes Monitoring, applying insecticides, encouraging natural predators, and mechanical exclusion

Lifecycle and Reproduction

Eggs

Kudzu bugs and stink bugs both lay eggs on plant surfaces. Kudzu bug eggs are barrel-shaped and often found in clusters on leaves and stems1. Stink bug eggs are typically round, and found on the underside of leaves2.

Nymphs

  • Kudzu bug nymphs are initially bright green, turning brown as they mature3
  • Stink bug nymphs have a similar body shape to adults but are typically smaller and lack wings4

Kudzu bug nymphs undergo five instars before reaching adulthood5. Stink bug nymphs also pass through five instar stages6.

Adults

Kudzu bugs and stink bugs both have a shield-like shape. Adult kudzu bugs are brown and globular7, while stink bugs can be green, brown, or other colors depending on the species8.

Comparison Table

Feature Kudzu Bug Stink Bug
Egg Shape Barrel-shaped Round
Egg Location Leaves and stems Underside of leaves
Nymph Color Bright green to brown Varies by species
Adult Shape Globular Shield-like
Adult Color Brown Green, brown, or other

Treatment and Prevention Measures

Insecticides and Pesticides

  • Bifenthrin: A common pyrethroid insecticide used to combat both kudzu and stink bugs, targeting their nervous system.

    Pros:

    • Effective at controlling bug populations
    • Low mammalian toxicity

    Cons:

    • Harmful to beneficial insects
    • Potential environmental impact
  • Application: Apply insecticides to affected surfaces and surrounding areas, focusing on points of entry.

    Example: Spray bifenthrin evenly on plants infested by kudzu bugs or stink bugs.

Physical Control Methods

  • Screens: Install fine mesh screens on windows, doors, and vents to prevent bug entry.

    Pros:

    • Non-chemical method
    • Long-lasting prevention

    Cons:

    • Initial installation cost
    • Regular maintenance
  • Exterminator: Hire a pest control professional to assess the situation and recommend treatments.

Natural Predators

Introducing natural predators can help control bug populations.

  • Kudzu bug predator: The samurai wasp is an example of a predator that targets the kudzu bug.

  • Stink bug predator: Spiders and birds are some natural predators of stink bugs.

Comparison Kudzu Bug Stink Bug
Affected plants Kudzu, soybean 170 different plants
Insecticides Bifenthrin Bifenthrin
Physical control Screens, exterminator Screens, exterminator
Natural predators Samurai wasp Spiders, birds

Incorporating physical control methods, using targeted insecticides, and introducing natural predators can help manage kudzu bug and stink bug populations effectively.

Overwintering and Seasonal Behavior

Seeking Warm Shelter

Kudzu bugs and stink bugs are known to seek warm places during colder months for overwintering. These bugs often find shelter in cracks and crevices of homes or other structures. Kudzu bugs, for instance, may be found in wisteria plants or other vegetation nearby.

Stink bugs prefer to overwinter in large, dry, dead trees having a circumference of more than 23 inches.

Congregating

During warmer seasons, both kudzu bugs and stink bugs tend to congregate in areas where their host plants are abundant. Kudzu bugs are known to flock to kudzu, wisteria, and soybeans, while stink bugs are often found on fruit trees or vegetable crops.

Migration

Kudzu bugs spread rapidly from their initial introduction in Georgia. They were found in North and South Carolina within a couple of years.

Stink bugs, on the other hand, have a more established presence across the United States, and their migration is more seasonal, moving between their overwintering sites and host plants.

Comparison table: Kudzu Bug vs. Stink Bug

Feature Kudzu Bug Stink Bug
Overwintering Location Wisteria Large, dry trees
Congregating Host Plant (Examples) Kudzu, Soybeans Fruit trees, Vegetable crops
Migration Speed Rapid Seasonal

In conclusion, both kudzu bugs and stink bugs seek warmth and shelter during the colder months, congregate near their host plants, and exhibit different migration patterns. Identifying and understanding their behaviors can help with their management and control.

Invasive Species and Impact on Native Ecosystems

Kudzu Vines and Kudzu Bugs

Kudzu vines are known for their rapid growth and ability to smother native plants, trees, and structures in invaded areas. Kudzu bugs (Megacopta cribraria), on the other hand, are an invasive insect species that feed on kudzu vines as well as other legumes, including soybeans, which can cause severe economic damage.

Some notable traits of kudzu vines:

  • Fast-growing over other plants and structures
  • Shade out native plants, reducing biodiversity
  • Girdle trees and smother them

Features of kudzu bugs:

Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs

Brown marmorated stink bugs (Halyomorpha halys) are another invasive insect species that also cause significant agricultural damage by feeding on a wide variety of plants. These stink bugs differ from kudzu bugs in appearance and feeding habits.

Characteristics of brown marmorated stink bugs:

  • Shield-shaped, brown, and speckled body
  • Feed on a wide range of host plants, including fruits, vegetables, and ornamentals
  • Produce an unpleasant odor when disturbed
Kudzu Bugs Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs
Appearance Short, oblong, olive-green Shield-shaped, brown, and speckled
Invasive Species Yes Yes
Feeding Habits Kudzu vines and other legumes Wide variety of plants, including fruits
Agricultural Impact Severe damage, especially to soybean Significant damage to various crops
Methods of Control or Prevention Physical removal, chemical control Monitoring and trapping, chemical control
Effects on Native Ecosystems (Biodiversity) Feeds on invasive kudzu vines Disrupts native species, competes for resources

Impact on Home Gardens and Structures

Garden Vegetables and Pests

Kudzu bugs and stink bugs are both known to cause damage to garden vegetables and plants. However, the brown marmorated stink bug is more widespread, attacking nearly 170 different plants, including ornamental plants, peaches, apples, and tomatoes.

On the other hand, kudzu bugs are mainly a problem for legume crops like soybeans and green beans in the southeastern U.S. As predators, some stink bugs can be beneficial, as they prey on garden pests like caterpillars and beetles.

Examples of predatory stink bugs include:

  • Spined soldier bug
  • Two-spotted stink bug

Comparing common garden pests:

Pest Primary Food Source Preferred Habitat Region
Kudzu Bug Legumes (soybeans, green beans) Legume crops, kudzu plants Southeastern U.S.
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Variety of plants (peaches, apples, tomatoes) Orchards, gardens Widespread in the U.S.

Preventing Home Infestations

To prevent kudzu bugs and stink bugs from entering your home, follow these steps:

  1. Inspect the perimeter of your home: Look for gaps, cracks, and crevices in walls and foundations, especially near doors and windows.
  2. Seal cracks and gaps: Use caulk or other sealants to close up any gaps where bugs can enter.
  3. Maintain your garden: Remove fallen fruit and debris, as they attract pests. Consider introducing beneficial insects like ladybugs to help control pest populations.

Remember, it is important not to rely solely on pesticides, as they can harm beneficial insects. Instead, use a combination of methods to prevent infestations and protect your garden and home structures.

Footnotes

  1. https://kids.niehs.nih.gov/topics/natural-world/wildlife/ecology/kudzu-bugs 2 3

  2. https://soybeans.ces.ncsu.edu/kudzu-bug-3/ 2 3

  3. https://www.ars.usda.gov/ARSUserFiles/30842/Field%20Guide%20to%20Stink%20Bugs.pdf 2 3

  4. https://extension.umd.edu/resource/invasives-your-woodland-kudzu 2 3

  5. A Faster Way to Get Rid of Kudzu 2

  6. Brown Marmorated Stink Bug 2

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

  8. https://www.planetnatural.com/pest-problem-solver/garden-pests/stink-bug-control/

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 Bug

 

Subject: Beetle
Location: Knoxville tennessee
November 3, 2015 1:14 pm
Hundreds of them flying around. Never seen them before.
Signature: Phil

Lablab Bug
Lablab Bug

Dear Phil,
The good thing is that the introduced Lablab Bug will eat the invasive kudzu plant, but the bad news is that it will also eat soybeans.  Additional demerits are earned by the Lablab Bug for being an annoyance by swarming around and in homes in large numbers.

Lablab Bug
Lablab Bug

Letter 2 – Lablab Bug

 

Subject:  What is this?
Geographic location of the bug:  Virginia
Date: 05/01/2019
Time: 07:09 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hello. I was wondering what kind of bug this is. I found it in my garden of pansies and daisies. I have never seen one before. I’m not sure if it flies or not, it was just crawling around on the wood that borders my garden.
How you want your letter signed:  Brieanna

Lablab Bug

Dear Virginia,
This is a Lablab Bug,
Megacopta cribraria, an invasive species accidentally introduced from China.  According to BugGuide:  “earliest record in our area: GA 2009 may invade homes in large numbers and become a household pest.”  Additionally, according to BugGuide, it is a significant agricultural pest because:  “hosts: in the US, reported to develop only on soybean and kudzu – Univ. FL, 2012.  Primary hosts are Fabaceae. It has also been reported on plants from other families, such as sweet potatoes, potatoes, corn and cotton.”  The advantage it provided by feeding on invasive kudzu weed is far outweighed by its negative attributes.  Since its introduction a scant ten years ago, BugGuide now reports it from Maryland to Florida and west to Arkansas. 

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.

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