Don’t panic — that’s the advice Angus Catchot offers growers about the kudzu bug, a pest of soybeans that is being found in Mississippi.

“It’s an invasive species from Asia, and you’re going to be hearing a lot about it; there will be a media blitz,” the Mississippi State University Extension professor of entomology and plant pathology told growers at a Grenada, Miss., meeting.

Entomologists and growers in the Carolinas and Georgia “already have two or three years of experience with this insect,” he says. “They know it well, and we have a lot of information about it already, so we won’t have to do a tremendous amount of research on how to deal with it.”

There are soybean losses associated with the pest when numbers get extremely high, Catchot says, “But we’ve got eyes on about every soybean acre in the state and I think our growers and consultants will be on top of it, and will manage it.

“When it gets established in soybeans — and that will happen; it may be a year, it may be two years — we can control it. Control is not difficult.

“My counterparts in states where they have the pest already tell me that our soybean producers, who are high management growers, probably won’t need to add a spray to the two or three we’re already averaging.ADULT MALE kudzu bug. —Photo J. Eger, Dow AgroSciences

“If you’re a grower in the hills and don’t usually spray soybeans, but have a lot of kudzu around, you may have to add a spray for this pest. It’s possible we may have to get back to an automatic spray at R3 — we just don’t know yet.”

But, Catchot says, “I can tell you, it’s easily controlled.”

Unlike other crop pests, he notes, the kudzu bug is an urban pest and will also invade homes. “Like lady beetles, you can have hundreds of them coming inside your house — another reason the media will be all over this.”

The kudzu bug has already been identified in Alabama and Tennessee.

Catchot says the Mississippi identification was made July 11 by a former Clemson University graduate student traveling through the Vicksburg area.

“She was very familiar with the pest, and when she stopped at a Vicksburg gas station she saw six or eight of them on a vehicle. She immediately reported it to us.

“Tom Allen, Extension associate professor of plant pathology, was scouting for soybean rust a week or so later and I asked him to go by the Vicksburg area and specifically look kudzu bugs. In the first two patches of kudzu he checked, they were everywhere, both adults and nymphs.

“The area is on a major interstate highway and they likely came in on a vehicle — they’re a major hitchhiker.

“Two days ago (July 16), I was headed to Starkville, Miss., and stopped at the Pilot truck stop at Winona, located at a major intersection with a highway coming straight from Tifton Ga. I got out and walked up the hill behind the station, and the insects were everywhere in the kudzu, both adults and immatures.”

Catchot asks that growers and consultants keep a lookout for the pest and report findings to his department. “It will help us to stay on top of developments as this new insect establishes itself in the state.”

He reiterates, “I believe we can manage the kudzu bug fairly easily — but it will take some grower education over the next couple of years on what to look for and how to deal with it.”