A clearer picture of the impact of the kudzu bug on Georgia's roadsides, farms, and gardens is slowly emerging as information from across the state is gathered and evaluated by personnel at UGA.
The map below shows the speed at which this particular pest is spreading across the Southeast:
At a meeting about four weeks ago, Wayne Gardner, an Entomologist at UGA, shared some very useful new information about these little stink bugs. It turns out that - so far - they are most damaging to kudzu and soybeans. They don't seem to damage peanuts, but they have been observed feeding on wisteria.They also are seen on many other legume-family plants, but the amount of damage they inflict on those is unclear.
Gardner listed host plants for the kudzu bugs, and those that are legumes include: Lima beans, pole/string/green beans, lablab beans, pigeon peas, wisteria (both American and Chinese), American Yellowwood, lespedeza, peanut, crimson clover, clover, alfalfa, sicklepod, and black locust.
Non-legume host plants include: alligator weed, black willow, banana, cocklebur, cotton, fig, loquat, muscadine grape, pecan, pine trees, potato, satsuma mandarin, tnagerine, wax myrtle, wheat, and wild blackberry.
On most of the host plants, the bugs are present as adults, but they aren't reproducing on the plants, and the amount of damage done is yet to be established. The kudzu bugs are present in all stages of the lifecycle on soybeans and kudzu, and they damage soybeans and kudzu primarily by feeding on the stems rather than the leaves.
Gardner reported that kudzu biomass in infested stands is reduced by about one third within a year's time, which is probably good news for our roadsides. For soybean farmers, the average 18% reduction in crop yield is markedly less-than-good news. For urban areas, it may turn out that the worst problems relate to the stink and the staining caused by the little pests, and some people may have a localized allergic reaction to contact with the bugs. Hopefully, the picture will become even more clear this season, as more data are gathered and added to what we already know.