Kudzu bugs are a new pest in the south, making their debut in our area this past spring most notably on wisteria vines. After spending the summer outdoors feeding on kudzu, soybeans, field peas and other members of the bean family, these prolific insects are now looking for a cozy place to spend the winter. This could be nestled under tree bark, tucked into mulch or leaf litter, or dry and warm inside your house. Western areas of the state are already reporting a wave of home invasions by this pest, which is moving our way as cooler temperatures drive these bugs out of the fields and potentially into our homes.
Should I Be Concerned?
Kudzu bugs will not damage your house or harm you if you come in contact with them, though as a member of the stink bug family they do emit an unpleasant odor and may stain surfaces when crushed. Outdoors kudzu bugs can cause problems for soybean growers and vegetable gardeners by stunting plants and reducing yields of summer favorites like butter beans, field peas, and green beans. Indoors they are considered a nuisance pest since most people are not thrilled about the idea of hundreds of bugs hanging out within their walls.
People living near soybean fields, kudzu infested areas, or who have hyacinth bean or wisteria vines in their yards are most likely to see kudzu bugs around their homes. These bugs are particularly attracted to light colors and high places and often congregate in large numbers on the sides of white buildings, light colored cars, and other reflective surfaces. They will also gather on the trunks of trees and shrubs but do not cause damage to ornamental plants.
What Can I Do?
If kudzu bugs are starting to gather in or around your home little can be done to stop them. The exodus of kudzu bugs from surrounding fields is expected to last through the next two to three weeks. Sealing any gaps or cracks that allow entry inside the house will help keep some of them out; dousing your house in pesticides will not. While you can kill kudzu bugs by spraying pesticides directly on them, this does little to control the population since thousands more are waiting to take their place.
If you do need to treat a small area that is covered with kudzu bugs, sprays containing a synthetic pyrethriod as the active ingredient are most effective. These include the chemicals bifenthrin, permethrin, cyfluthrin , and lamda-cyhalothrin, which will be listed in the active ingredients box on the front of the pesticide label. Organic pesticides are likely to have little impact on this pest, though pyrethrins, the natural compounds upon which synthetic pyrethroids are based, may be slightly more effective than others.
When using any pesticide read and follow all label directions. If spraying overhead, be sure to wear eye protection and remove or cover objects below, such as deck chairs, grills, children’s toys, and pools since they are likely to be contaminated by spray drift. Keep in mind the effects of spraying are only temporary.
Spraying inside your home is not recommended. Mike Waldvogel, Extension Specialist with NCSU’s Entomology Department, describes treating indoors as “an exercise in futility”. What he recommends instead is a vacuum cleaner. Simply vacuum up the bugs that have gathered inside your home on a daily basis, but be sure to dispose of the bag or empty out your vacuum if it is bagless, otherwise the bugs will start to stink. If the bugs are still alive, you can freeze them or drown them in soapy water before disposing of them; if released alive they will likely just return to your home.
Treating the sides of your house in an effort to prevent kudzu bugs from landing there is a waste of time and money, and a danger to you and the environment. If kudzu bugs are active in your neighborhood, targeted sprays around windows, door frames, and soffits may provide some benefit, though these are often best made by professionals who have access to more effective application equipment and products.
More information about dealing with kudzu bugs indoors is available online from NC Cooperative Extension: http://insects.ncsu.edu/Urban/kudzubug.htm
Use Extension Search to find research based information from Cooperative Extension systems across the U.S.
Visit your local Cooperative Extension office to learn more about gardening and landscape care. Go to https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/local-county-center/ to find your county Extension center or post your questions to be answered online via Extension’s ‘Ask an Expert’ widget.
Contact your local Cooperative Extension office to get expert advice from an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer:
- If you live in Pender County, call 910-259-1235
- In New Hanover County, call 910-798-7660
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- In Duplin County, call 910-296-2143
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