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Kudzu Bugs

Keep an eye out for this nasty pest

It all started with the best intentions. Kudzu, a plant native to Japan, was imported to the southern United States in the 1800s to enrich soil depleted by tobacco. It then came to Calvert County to prevent erosion, stabilizing the Calvert Cliffs. Wherever it came, the woody vine with distinct three-lobed leaves brought problems.
    It’s for good reason that kudzu is known as the vine that ate the South, for it can grow up to a foot a day in temperate climes with mild winters, a category that Maryland falls into.
    Now, we get to worry about the kudzu bug. Megacopta cribraria, an oblong olive-greenish bug with brown freckles, has made its way from Japan to our shores. How it came is a mystery; what it’s doing is not.
    The bug is partial to the kudzu plant but its appetite extends to other relatives like wisteria (an invasive that ought to be eaten) and legumes like soybeans.
    “The soybean is most closely related to the kudzu, as can be seen in the leaves of both plants, which is why the bug potentially poses a big threat,” says Bill Lamp, University of Maryland entomology professor.
    The kudzu bug is a relative of the stinkbug, releasing a similarly unpleasant odor when disturbed. Worse, they also leave a stain and can cause skin irritation. The kudzu bug likes to seek shelter in the siding of homes over winter. In the South, they’ve been reported to have swarmed whole communities.
    If you see a kudzu bug, report it to the Maryland Department of Agriculture Plant Protection and Weed Management hotline: 410-841-5920; extension.umd. edu/learn/ask-gardening.