Kudzu bug invasion lands in local backyards

An invasion is underway in South Carolina. Swarms of kudzu bugs are encroaching on backyards across the Grand Strand and Pee Dee.

Kudzu bugs have the appearance of a brown lady bug. The scientific name for the insect is the bean plastaspid and it feeds on things like kudzu plants and soybeans. So far, farmers are more bothered by the bugs than anyone else.

The bugs won't bite you and they won't damage your home, so kudzu bugs are mostly just an annoyance.

Kudzu bugs were first spotted in Athens, Georgia in 2009. They are native to Asia and officials say they probably came to the U.S. on an imported plant.

Clemson University extension agents say only a few of the bugs were sighted in our area last year, but this spring, they're landing all over and people have lots of questions.

"Me and the other agents in the office have probably fielded, oh, 120, 150 calls in two weeks," said Horry County extension agent Ben Powell.

For some reason, kudzu bugs are attracted to things that are light-colored, so people with white fences or white houses should be prepared.

"Make sure that they have doors and windows sealed up really well," said Lennie Johnson, asst. general manager at Lane's Pest Elimination in Myrtle Beach. "The kudzu bugs are going to land on windowsills, they're going to land on doors. Try to prevent them from getting inside."

Powell said plain old soapy water will kill the bugs if it's sprayed on them directly, but it won't prevent more bugs from coming back.

They are cousins to stink bugs, so Powell said you shouldn't squish them, because they will give off a bad odor.

"If they get in the house, you might want to just vacuum them up. An investment in a good shop vac would be a good way to go," Powell said.

Kudzu bugs are so new to the Southeast no one has come up with a good pesticide to control them long term, so Powell hopes that, rather than try to bring the kudzu bug population down, people will bring their acceptance level up.

"Just be willing to tolerate them, because they're not a threat, they're mainly a nuisance."

Powell said there's a lot of research being done on the bugs at Clemson and other universities. He said one school is working on a wasp that is a parasite to kudzu bugs, but presenting more wasps into the environment could cause more problems than it solves.

He said what researchers really want is something that would only stop kudzu bugs and not hurt anything else.