Where Did the Kudzu Bug Come From? Unraveling the Mystery

The kudzu bug has become a notorious nuisance and agricultural pest in recent years. Originating from Asia, this small olive-green insect with brown speckles was first discovered on kudzu vines near Atlanta, Georgia, in 2009. Since its unintentional introduction to the United States, the kudzu bug quickly established itself as a significant threat to soybean crops, as well as to various legumes like beans, wisteria, and vetches.

One may wonder how this tiny insect managed to make its way across the globe. It is believed that the kudzu bug hitched a ride on cargo shipments from its native region, eventually finding a foothold in the southern United States.

Now that you know where the kudzu bug came from, it’s important to consider its impact and spread. The rapid growth of kudzu plants in the southern United States has enabled the kudzu bug to thrive and expand its territory. Consequently, the pest has become a serious agricultural concern and a challenge to control.

Origins of the Kudzu Bug

The kudzu bug, scientifically known as Megacopta cribraria, is a member of the Heteroptera family within the insect order Hemiptera. This Old World bug is native to Asia and was first discovered in the United States in the fall of 2009, in the vicinity of Atlanta, Georgia, feeding on the kudzu vine1.

The kudzu bug, also known as the bean plataspid or globular stinkbug, was accidentally introduced in the US, and it wasn’t done with the intention to manage kudzu1. Since then, the bug has rapidly spread through various states, and it has become an economic pest, severely affecting soybean crops1.

The kudzu bug measures about 4 to 6 mm in length and appears oblong in shape2. It is olive-green in color and has brown speckles. It belongs to the “true bugs” category with its characteristic piercing-sucking mouthparts2. In addition to kudzu, these insects are known to feed on a variety of legume plants, including soybeans, bean species, wisteria, and some vetches2.

Here are a few key features of the kudzu bug:

  • Scientific name: Megacopta cribraria
  • Family: Heteroptera
  • Origin: Asia
  • First discovered in the US: 2009
  • Feeds on: Kudzu, soybeans, and other legumes
  • Dimensions: 4-6 mm in length
  • Shape: Oblong
  • Color: Olive green with brown speckles
  • Mouthparts: Piercing-sucking

To sum up, the kudzu bug is an invasive insect native to Asia, accidentally introduced to the United States. It has become a significant economic pest, especially affecting soybean farms1. You can identify the kudzu bug by its olive-green color, characteristic shape, and piercing-sucking mouthparts2.

Arrival in United States

The kudzu bug, a natural predator of the kudzu vine, arrived in the United States in 2009. It was first discovered in the Atlanta, Georgia area. The bug is believed to have entered the country on an airplane at a nearby airport.

Since its arrival, the kudzu bug has spread to several states within the Southeastern United States. You can find it in Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. It feeds on kudzu vines, reducing their growth and spread across the region.

Although the bug was not intentionally introduced as a kudzu control measure, it has established itself as a severe economic pest, particularly in soybean crops. In these states, it has caused significant damage to soybean production, even though it also reduces kudzu’s spread in the area.

The kudzu vine itself was introduced to the United States much earlier, in 1876 at the United States Centennial Exposition. Originating from Japan and China, it was initially promoted as a “wonder plant.” Today, it covers over 2 million hectares in the country and can damage ecosystems by smothering native plants and trees.

Impact on Soybean Farming

The kudzu bug, first discovered in Atlanta, Georgia in 2009, has quickly become a severe economic pest to soybean farming. Within a short time, these bugs caused considerable yield losses in infested soybean fields.

Their impact on soybean farming is major because kudzu bugs feed on various legumes, including soybeans. As a nuisance and agricultural pest, their quick spread threatens the sustainability of soybean production.

Some notable points regarding the kudzu bug:

  • 4 to 6 mm long
  • Somewhat oblong in shape
  • Olive-green with brown speckles
  • Piercing-sucking mouthparts

The kudzu bug’s unique feeding habits make it challenging for farmers to control them. They use their piercing-sucking mouthparts to extract sap from soybean plants, causing yield losses over time.

Damage caused by kudzu bug infestation includes:

  • Reduced plant growth
  • Stunted plant development
  • Yield losses in soybean crops

To minimize damage and loss, it’s crucial for farmers to employ an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach. This includes monitoring infestations and utilizing biological control measures to prevent the spread of kudzu bugs throughout soybean fields.

Kudzu Bug and Kudzu Vine

Kudzu bug, also known as bean plataspid or globular stinkbug, was first discovered in the vicinity of Atlanta, Georgia, in 2009. Initially an accidental introduction, the kudzu bug became a severe economic pest of soybean in the southeastern United States.

Kudzu vine, scientifically known as Pueraria montana, is a fast-growing, invasive species native to Japan and China. Often referred to as the “vine that ate the South”, it made its way to the United States in 1876.

The plant has compound leaves with three leaflets and distinctive, hairy nodes. Kudzu’s incredible growth rate, up to a foot per day in optimal conditions, is due to its ability to spread through its rhizomes while also propagating vigorously by seed.

It is important to be aware of both the kudzu vine and its associated kudzu bug. The vine’s rapid growth and habit of smothering other plants make it a significant ecological threat, while the kudzu bug can cause substantial damage to leguminous crops.

Harmful Effects on Biodiversity

Invasive plants like kudzu can cause significant harm to the ecosystem. They tend to grow aggressively, often preventing native plants from establishing themselves. In turn, this reduces the biodiversity in the area.

Kudzu, for instance, can form thick mats along the ground and into trees, essentially smothering nearby plants. The native trees and shrubs get deprived of sunlight, which negatively impacts their growth and survival. It is classified as a noxious weed and can cause significant displacement of native plants.

Here are some more reasons why invasive plants like kudzu are harmful to biodiversity:

  • They can outcompete native plants for resources, such as water, nutrients, and sunlight.
  • They may introduce new diseases or pests to an ecosystem.
  • They can lead to local extinction of native plant species.

To help protect biodiversity, it is essential to be knowledgeable about invasive plants and take steps to control their spread. For example, controlling kudzu could involve persistent applications of effective herbicides, or even overgrazing for two to three years in certain cases as mentioned in this research.

Remember that invasive plants not only impact the biodiversity of flora, but they also have indirect consequences on fauna. Lower biodiversity of plants could lead to a decline in available habitats and resources for animals. By addressing the issue of invasive plants, you are contributing to the overall health and balance of our precious ecosystems.

Nuisance to Homes

Kudzu bugs have become a significant nuisance pest in homes, particularly in southern US states. Because of their invasive nature and rapid reproduction rates, these bugs can quickly overtake your property. Here’s why kudzu bugs are considered a nuisance in homes and how they can affect your everyday life.

These little bugs have a habit of invading homes, especially during the colder months. They are attracted to light-colored surfaces and warmth, so they tend to accumulate around windows, doors, and siding. Their presence in large numbers can be quite bothersome:

  • Swarming behavior: Kudzu bugs are known for their swarming behavior in and around homes, making them difficult to manage and an ongoing annoyance for homeowners.

  • Staining: As they get crushed accidentally, kudzu bugs release a foul-smelling substance that can cause staining on your walls, furniture, and other belongings.

  • Bites: Though not common, kudzu bugs can occasionally bite humans. The bite isn’t harmful but might leave a temporary mark on your skin, causing discomfort.

In conclusion, kudzu bugs are not only a nuisance to agriculture but also a pest to homeowners. If left unchecked, these bugs can cause considerable discomfort and inconvenience, making it important to stay informed and take necessary precautions against their presence in your home.

Eradication Methods

Kudzu is an invasive plant that can cause soil erosion and other issues. To control its spread, various methods can be used, such as mowing, grazing, biological control, and herbicides.

Mowing is a simple and accessible method for you to try. Regular mowing can help control kudzu growth, but it requires persistence and may not be effective for large infestations.

Grazing, on the other hand, involves using livestock like goats and sheep to eat the kudzu plants. This US Forest Service article mentions that grazing can be an effective containment treatment. However, it may not be suitable if you don’t have access to livestock or if the location is not appropriate for them.

Biological control is another option, where specific insects or pests are introduced to control kudzu growth. This method requires careful consideration of potential impacts on the ecosystem and may not be as effective as other methods.

Herbicides are chemical substances that can kill kudzu plants. According to this USDA research article, herbicides can be an effective rapid solution for kudzu eradication. However, you should be cautious when using chemicals, as they may have unintended consequences on the environment or neighboring plants.

Ultimately, you may want to try a combination of these methods for the best results. You can start with mowing and follow up with herbicide spraying if necessary. Always consider the specific circumstances and your resources when deciding the most suitable approach for your situation. Remember to avoid making exaggerated or false claims while discussing the efficacy of these methods.

Miscellaneous Information

Kudzu bug, native to China, Japan, and India, was accidentally introduced in the southeastern U.S. This invasive species is known to damage important legume plants, including soybeans.

Kudzu plant features

  • Kudzu, from the Pueraria genus, is a semi-woody and twining vine.
  • This plant is a member of the Fabaceae family.
  • Kudzu is known for its fast growth and ability to cover other vegetation.
  • Displays purple flowers and has edible parts.
  • Contains trifoliate leaves, which are significant in nitrogen-fixing bacteria.

The plant forms a symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria and grows well in a variety of environments, including drought conditions. Kudzu was brought to the U.S. to combat soil erosion and was even promoted by naturalist Channing Cope, founder of the Kudzu Club of America.

Despite its benefits, kudzu is now considered invasive. It’s on the federal noxious weed list and poses a challenge to other vegetation due to its rapid growth. Researchers even explored kudzu’s potential as a biofuel.

Comparison of Kudzu and Wisteria

Feature Kudzu Wisteria
Family Fabaceae Fabaceae
Growth Fast-growing Moderate-growing
Leaves Trifoliate Pinnate
Flowers Purple Purple, White

The kudzu bug, part of the Plataspidae family, infests kudzu plants and other legumes. It’s a potential legume pest that impacts the biomass of the plants it infests. With its wide host range in the Southeastern U.S., it is also known as the bean plataspid.

In conclusion, kudzu and the kudzu bug originated in Asia and have made their way to the U.S., causing ecological challenges. The bug infests not only kudzu but also other valuable legume crops, making effective eradication difficult.

Footnotes

  1. Kudzu Bug | NC State Extension Publications 2 3 4

  2. Kudzu Bugs – A Nuisance and Agricultural Pest | NC State Extension… 2 3 4

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 found in Tennessee

 

Subject: Small dark brown smelly beetle
Location: SE Tn
November 3, 2012 10:56 pm
Okay, so about four weeks ago (the beginning of Oct) about hundreds of these beetles showed up at my house. They smell when disturbed and are almost black with lighter brown spots. I’ve lived in SE Tn for 10 years and have never had this happen before. What bug is this???
Thanks!
Signature: Jenna

Lablab Bug

Dear Jenna,
This is a Lablab Bug or Bean Plataspid,
Megacopta cribraria, an invasive, exotic species of Stink Bug recently accidentally introduced from Asia.  The good news it that it feeds on the invasive kudzu plant, and the bad news is that it will also feed on soybeans and other crop plants in the legume family.  According to BugGuide, it is “adventive in Australia and the US (NC-GA-AL, probably or shortly in TN & VA.”  BugGuide doesn’t yet report its incidence in Tennessee and your letter is our first indication that the species has spread.

Letter 2 – Lablab Bug or Kudzu Bug

 

Subject: Bug ID
Location: Oxford, Mississippi
April 16, 2015 1:25 pm
Found two of these crawling on me.
Signature: Luke

Lablab Bug or Kudzu Bug
Lablab Bug or Kudzu Bug

Dear Luke,
This is a Lablab Bug or Kudzu Bug,
Megacopta cribraria, an invasive and recently introduced species that is spreading throughout the south.  We decided to do a bit more historical research on this species, and our first citation is from the Atlanta Journal Constitution website AJC.com which states:  “Best anyone can tell, the scourge began in Hoschton in 2009. A pest-control guy had samples from a house a-crawl with odd little bugs. They were brown and ugly and smelled bad, sort of like ladybugs dipped in something a dog would roll in.  The pest-control guy had never seen anything like them, so he slipped a few dead ones in a vial of alcohol. He gave them to an entomologist at the University of Georgia, who was equally perplexed.  He showed the mystery insects to Joe Eger, another entomologist who stopped by the UGA professor’s office to say hello. Eger is an expert on stinkbugs.  Intrigued, Eger visited the Hoschton house where the bugs turned up. He traced the hordes of unwanted visitors to a nearby tangle of kudzu. Thus did Megacopta cribaria officially debut. Since its discovery four years ago, it’s been discussed and cussed, researched and reviled. It’s the object of inquiry in laboratories from Griffin to Missoula, Mont. It’s the kudzu bug. With spring on the horizon, swarms of them ought to be out in force soon.”  The Bug of the Week site reports:  “As a foodie fond of invasive kudzu, some might herald the arrival of the bug as a blessing, but this bug has a darker side. In addition to kudzu, one of Maryland’s most important crops, soybeans, is also on the menu. Soybean growers in infested states have already reported important losses associated with kudzu bug.  This critter has sucking mouthparts that, once inserted into the leaves and stems, rob the soybean of its nutritious sap. The removal of these vital fluids can significantly reduce yields. In addition to kudzu and soybeans, wisteria, a widely planted and naturalized ornamental plant, also serves as a competent source of food.”  The North Carolina State University Residential, Structural and Community Pests site states:  “As temperatures and day length decline, kudzu bugs seek out sheltered areas where they can pass the winter, such as under bark or rocks, or in leaf litter, etc. They are most common along the edges of kudzu patches and soybean fields and in areas near residential areas, we can expect to see them invade homes simiilar to the behavior of another nuisance pest – the Asian lady beetle. The bugs will often congregate on light-colored surfaces (such as siding, fascia boards, etc.).”  The site also provides a link to a map that illustrates the expanded range of the Lablab Bug in the south.  While the Lablab Bug poses no direct dangerous threat to humans, they are an invasive species, a serious threat to the agricultural industry, and a troublesome nuisance when they invade homes.

Letter 3 – Lablab Bugs

 

Odd squarish dark mottled beetle – possibly australian tortoise beetle?
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
October 17, 2011 12:16 am
Hello,
A friend sent me this photo of small (slightly bigger than ladybug-size) beetles he spotted sunning themselves on the balcony of his apartment in Atlanta, Georgia. I’ve never seen beetles like this. I have done some searches and suspect they could possibly be an import, the Australian Tortoise Beetle, although their shape and colouration seems a bit odd. They do appear to have the hair tuft on the end of their legs though. What do you think? Is it something else entirely? I asked him to contact his local officials in case this was indeed an invasive species but if it’s something else more obvious I’d love to hear it.
Signature: tee

Lablab Bugs

Dear Tee,
You have cause for concern.  These are Lablab Bugs or Globular Stink Bugs,
Megacopta cirbraria, and they are also called Bean Plataspids.  According to BugGuide:  “Recently found in ne. GA; native to India and China, known also from many parts of e. & se. Asia to Australia and New Caledonia(1) According to USA Today [Sept 26, 2011] – now NC, SC, AL.”  There is a mixed blessing with this information from BugGuide:  “Found in the US on kudzu; known hosts include legume crops, especially soybean.”  Any insect that feeds on the invasive Kudzu would be welcomed, provided they did not also feed on an important crop plant.

Thank you so much for the reply! I will forward this to my friend! Many thanks on your wonderful website. It is very well-loved!

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 found in Tennessee

 

Subject: Small dark brown smelly beetle
Location: SE Tn
November 3, 2012 10:56 pm
Okay, so about four weeks ago (the beginning of Oct) about hundreds of these beetles showed up at my house. They smell when disturbed and are almost black with lighter brown spots. I’ve lived in SE Tn for 10 years and have never had this happen before. What bug is this???
Thanks!
Signature: Jenna

Lablab Bug

Dear Jenna,
This is a Lablab Bug or Bean Plataspid,
Megacopta cribraria, an invasive, exotic species of Stink Bug recently accidentally introduced from Asia.  The good news it that it feeds on the invasive kudzu plant, and the bad news is that it will also feed on soybeans and other crop plants in the legume family.  According to BugGuide, it is “adventive in Australia and the US (NC-GA-AL, probably or shortly in TN & VA.”  BugGuide doesn’t yet report its incidence in Tennessee and your letter is our first indication that the species has spread.

Letter 2 – Lablab Bug or Kudzu Bug

 

Subject: Bug ID
Location: Oxford, Mississippi
April 16, 2015 1:25 pm
Found two of these crawling on me.
Signature: Luke

Lablab Bug or Kudzu Bug
Lablab Bug or Kudzu Bug

Dear Luke,
This is a Lablab Bug or Kudzu Bug,
Megacopta cribraria, an invasive and recently introduced species that is spreading throughout the south.  We decided to do a bit more historical research on this species, and our first citation is from the Atlanta Journal Constitution website AJC.com which states:  “Best anyone can tell, the scourge began in Hoschton in 2009. A pest-control guy had samples from a house a-crawl with odd little bugs. They were brown and ugly and smelled bad, sort of like ladybugs dipped in something a dog would roll in.  The pest-control guy had never seen anything like them, so he slipped a few dead ones in a vial of alcohol. He gave them to an entomologist at the University of Georgia, who was equally perplexed.  He showed the mystery insects to Joe Eger, another entomologist who stopped by the UGA professor’s office to say hello. Eger is an expert on stinkbugs.  Intrigued, Eger visited the Hoschton house where the bugs turned up. He traced the hordes of unwanted visitors to a nearby tangle of kudzu. Thus did Megacopta cribaria officially debut. Since its discovery four years ago, it’s been discussed and cussed, researched and reviled. It’s the object of inquiry in laboratories from Griffin to Missoula, Mont. It’s the kudzu bug. With spring on the horizon, swarms of them ought to be out in force soon.”  The Bug of the Week site reports:  “As a foodie fond of invasive kudzu, some might herald the arrival of the bug as a blessing, but this bug has a darker side. In addition to kudzu, one of Maryland’s most important crops, soybeans, is also on the menu. Soybean growers in infested states have already reported important losses associated with kudzu bug.  This critter has sucking mouthparts that, once inserted into the leaves and stems, rob the soybean of its nutritious sap. The removal of these vital fluids can significantly reduce yields. In addition to kudzu and soybeans, wisteria, a widely planted and naturalized ornamental plant, also serves as a competent source of food.”  The North Carolina State University Residential, Structural and Community Pests site states:  “As temperatures and day length decline, kudzu bugs seek out sheltered areas where they can pass the winter, such as under bark or rocks, or in leaf litter, etc. They are most common along the edges of kudzu patches and soybean fields and in areas near residential areas, we can expect to see them invade homes simiilar to the behavior of another nuisance pest – the Asian lady beetle. The bugs will often congregate on light-colored surfaces (such as siding, fascia boards, etc.).”  The site also provides a link to a map that illustrates the expanded range of the Lablab Bug in the south.  While the Lablab Bug poses no direct dangerous threat to humans, they are an invasive species, a serious threat to the agricultural industry, and a troublesome nuisance when they invade homes.

Letter 3 – Lablab Bugs

 

Odd squarish dark mottled beetle – possibly australian tortoise beetle?
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
October 17, 2011 12:16 am
Hello,
A friend sent me this photo of small (slightly bigger than ladybug-size) beetles he spotted sunning themselves on the balcony of his apartment in Atlanta, Georgia. I’ve never seen beetles like this. I have done some searches and suspect they could possibly be an import, the Australian Tortoise Beetle, although their shape and colouration seems a bit odd. They do appear to have the hair tuft on the end of their legs though. What do you think? Is it something else entirely? I asked him to contact his local officials in case this was indeed an invasive species but if it’s something else more obvious I’d love to hear it.
Signature: tee

Lablab Bugs

Dear Tee,
You have cause for concern.  These are Lablab Bugs or Globular Stink Bugs,
Megacopta cirbraria, and they are also called Bean Plataspids.  According to BugGuide:  “Recently found in ne. GA; native to India and China, known also from many parts of e. & se. Asia to Australia and New Caledonia(1) According to USA Today [Sept 26, 2011] – now NC, SC, AL.”  There is a mixed blessing with this information from BugGuide:  “Found in the US on kudzu; known hosts include legume crops, especially soybean.”  Any insect that feeds on the invasive Kudzu would be welcomed, provided they did not also feed on an important crop plant.

Thank you so much for the reply! I will forward this to my friend! Many thanks on your wonderful website. It is very well-loved!

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.

10 thoughts on “Where Did the Kudzu Bug Come From? Unraveling the Mystery”

  1. I’m in Atlanta, too. There are about 5 million of these things in my yard today, out of nowhere. I’m happy for anything to eat kudzu but I hope they leave the rest of my yard and my bonsai alone.

    Reply
  2. We have these bugs swarming outside our company located in Fort Mill, SC today as well. We were wondering what they were. Were these imported here specifically to eat the kudzu?
    We have a lot of soybean crops. I hope those aren’t attacked.

    Reply
  3. What a coincidence that I found this site. I am also in Fort Mill, SC, and these things started swarming our neighborhood sometime last week. I can barely even a door without some getting in the house.

    Reply
  4. We are overrun with these bugs. When the temperature dropped in the upper 20’s last week, we found them in our sunroom and clustered together. We swept them up–boy what a mistake, still can’t get the stink out of there. We are rural and they harvested soy beans about 2 weeks ago. Last year they harvested soy beans but we did not have these bugs then. Pageland, SC

    Reply
  5. Chattanooga tn is invaded! Lots of kudzu tho. One landed in my eye lash and when I went to swat it it sprayed me in the eyes but also bit my eyelid I’ve searched everywhere to figure out this bug. They definitely bite when pissed.

    Reply

Leave a Comment