Like the boll weevil in the late 19th century, the kudzu bug has found a home in the U.S., quickly spreading across much of the South, and with few natural enemies, entomologists say it’s likely to be around a long time.

But unlike the crop-ravaging, difficult-to-control boll weevil, the kudzu bug (bean plataspid/Megacopta cribraria Fabricius) can be easily controlled with available pesticides, and crop damage can be kept to a minimum.

The challenge for Mississippi soybean growers, says Angus Catchot, is educational — to “keep farmers from freaking out when they see large numbers of kudzu bugs in their fields and immediately start spraying.”

 

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That could be a mistake, says Catchot, Extension entomology professor at Mississippi State University, because it could cause flaring of other more harmful insects and necessitate multiple applications when one would have been sufficient.

“Keep in mind that it takes tremendous numbers of these pests, over time, to cause yield loss,” he said at the annual meeting of the Mississippi Agricultural Consultants Association at Mississippi State University. “You’re not going to be penalized by waiting until the optimum time to spray. Wait until adults have finished migrating into the field and nymphs appear before you spray.”


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There are two big migrations each year, one in the spring, another in the fall, Catchot says. “Adult kudzu bugs can migrate into fields for four to six weeks, and spraying too early can be ineffective because later-arriving insects will reinfest the field.”

When scouting, he says, “Once you start picking up immature kudzu bugs in your sweep net, that’s a good sign the adult migration is over, and one well-timed spray should do the job. The challenge is to not panic and spray too early, getting yourself into a two- or three-spray situation when, by waiting, you could’ve made only one.