Soybean-sucking bugs reach Miss., may head west
by Janet McConnaughey, Associated Press Writer
August 07, 2012 02:35 PM | 444 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Adult kudzu bugs infest a soybean plant in a field near Athens. Although the bugs’ favorite food is the invasive weed they’re named after, they also have a hefty appetite for soybeans. One female arrived somehow in Georgia in 2009, and they’ve been spreading out from there since. Arkansas and Louisiana farmers are keeping a wary eye out for an invasion because they were found in July in Vicksburg, Miss.
Adult kudzu bugs infest a soybean plant in a field near Athens. Although the bugs’ favorite food is the invasive weed they’re named after, they also have a hefty appetite for soybeans. One female arrived somehow in Georgia in 2009, and they’ve been spreading out from there since. Arkansas and Louisiana farmers are keeping a wary eye out for an invasion because they were found in July in Vicksburg, Miss.
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 Juvenile kudzu bugs infest a soybean plant.
Juvenile kudzu bugs infest a soybean plant.
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By Janet Mcconnaughey

Associated Press Writer

NEW ORLEANS — Kudzu bugs, pea-sized Asian insects with hearty appetites for soybeans as well as the weed they’re named after, have hitchhiked from Alabama to western Mississippi. Farmers and entomologists in Arkansas and Louisiana are keeping a wary eye out for an invasion.

The bugs were found near Vicksburg, Miss., in July.

“That’s too close for comfort for us in Arkansas and the rest of the Mississippi Delta,” Arkansas Extension Service entomologist Gus Lorenz wrote on a blog when he learned of the Mississippi sighting. The LSU AgCenter also put out an alert asking farmers to keep an eye out for the bugs.

Vicksburg is about 270 miles west of the nearest Alabama county where they’d been seen.

Since first being spotted near Atlanta in 2009, kudzu bugs have spread to the Carolinas, southern Virginia, northern Florida, Alabama and east Tennessee. They are strong flyers, but also are known to hitchhike on trucks and other vehicles.

Such a big jump out of Alabama would be surprising if the bugs were only flying from place to place, said Wayne Gardner, an entomologist at the University of Georgia’s campus in Griffin.

“We knew these insects were very strong flyers, but we also knew they’re exceptionally good hitchhikers,” he said.

Kudzu bugs range from green to a brown so dark it’s almost black. They look a bit like ticks and a bit like dark ladybugs with squareish backsides. “If it was on you and sitting still, you might say, ‘Gosh is that a tick?’ If they were moving you might say, ‘What kind of lady beetle is that?’” Gardner said.

Like stinkbugs, to which they’re related, and like imported ladybugs, they emit a protective stink. Gardner said it’s a fruitier smell than stinkbugs’ stench, and has been mistaken at least once, by a woman who called 911, for a gas leak. “There was no gas. But there were kudzu bugs all over her screens and door and windows and porch,” he said.

That’s another way they’re like imported ladybugs — they’ll go into buildings for warmth. They especially seem to like white and pale colors. Gardner said he’s found them on his white car after checking beans or kudzu for the bugs, which are known to scientists as Megacopta cribaria.

That’s why they were first noticed in Vicksburg, said Angus Catchot Jr., an associate extension professor in entomology and plant pathology at Mississippi State University. A woman saw them on a car at a gas station on Interstate 20, then noticed kudzu across the road.

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