You’re probably having the initial reaction that I did, “Why would I want to control kudzu bugs? Just have at it!”
But kudzu bugs (Megacopta cribraria) also attack other legumes. Especially soybeans, wisteria, and hyacinth beans (Lablab pupureus). The idea of something that successfully retards the growth of kudzu having a picnic on my soybeans is not appealing.
It’s possible they will move on to other plant species as well. Last week I found swarms of them on my sage buddleia (Buddleia salviifolia) and am unsure if they were feeding or just attracted to rest in the pale leaves.
If you haven’t heard that kudzu has natural pests until now, you’re correct. I first noticed these guys clustered all over the straw bales and outdoor walls at a local garden center last season and knew that they were something I hadn’t seen before. Turns out they’re an invasive exotic that was first discovered in Georgia in 2009.
They’ve quickly spread all over Georgia, South Carolina, and into most of North Carolina. It’s probably fair to assume they’ll move into the same areas that kudzu is able to inhabit.
In addition to legumes, they are attracted to light colors when the weather cools because they hibernate in the same manner as Asian lady beetles. It’s common to see them swarming together and landing all over walls, doors, and windows, as shown in this News 11 Atlanta video. People seem to be having a hysterical reaction to their presence, though they are largely benign. Other than looking a bit like boogers and smelling really bad, they’re harmless if you aren’t a plant.
When attacking plants, they tend to cluster like this (at the time this post was written this photo was mislabeled as tortoise beetles). Since they feed on plant juices through sucking mouthparts like we drink milkshakes with a straw, it can look like they are simply resting. Visible plant damage includes curling leaves or discolored spotting.
Kudzu bugs are so new to our area that the ideal method of control isn’t known yet. If management is necessary, use the same methods as for squash bugs, harlequin bugs, or Japanese beetles. Knocking them into buckets of soapy water on a repeated basis is probably the best solution.
If you are experiencing kudzu bug hibernation inside your home, try turning your vacuum on them. (Beware that this will probably make your vacuum bag smell like stink bugs — you may want to use a shop vac that is stored in the garage).
NC State University has a good fact sheet on kudzu bugs that may help.
I encourage readers to leave tried and tested solutions in the comment section. Especially if you know of natural kudzu bug predators that can be encouraged to move into the garden.