An insect best known for eating kudzu has made its way into Alabama. Charles Ray, an entomologist who works with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, says kudzu bug specimens have been collected in Cleburne and Cherokee counties in northeast Alabama.

Ray says the bean plataspid, Megacopta cribraria, has moved out of Georgia where it was first located last fall.

“Based on the information Georgia scientists collected in 2010, I expect the bean plataspid is already present in neighboring Dekalb County,” says Ray.

While the discovery of an insect that eats kudzu may sound good, it has scientists concerned. Dr. Ayanava Majumdar, an Extension entomologist, says while an insect that eats kudzu sounds like a great thing, scientists are concerned about what else the insect might find good to eat.

“It was just reported for the first time in the United States in October 2009 where it was found feeding on kudzu in north Georgia,” he says. “Our concern is that we don’t know what impact it will have on other crops.”

He explains that kudzu is a legume, making it a relative of sorts to some agronomic crops including soybeans, peanuts, alfalfa and clover. Scientists are worried that the insect might be a threat to these crops. Ray agrees with Majumdar that there is reason to be concerned.

A new insect pest threat to these crops could have a serious impact on the state’s agriculture. Both soybeans and peanuts are major crops in the state. In Alabama this year, more than 10 million bushels of soybeans were harvested from about 360,000 acres. Around 190,000 acres of peanuts were planted in 2010 in the state, yielding almost 495 million pounds.