From: Allison Winter, ENN
Published April 23, 2013 01:31 PM

Kudzu Bugs May Be More Dangerous to Soybean Crops than Previously Thought

Many of us know kudzu as the invasive species that grows so rapidly it can destroy valuable forests by preventing trees from getting enough sunlight. Well now we have another "kudzu" species to be worried about — the kudzu bug.

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Also known as Megacopta cribraria, the kudzu bug is native to India and China, where it is an agricultural pest of beans and other legumes. 

After first being detected in Georgia in 2009, the kudzu bug has since expanded its territory as far north as Virginia. And according to new research from North Carolina State University, the kudzu bug may be able to expand to other parts of the country. Unfortunately, this invasive species has the potential to be a major agricultural pest, threatening the soybean crop of the south. 

The life cycle of the kudzu bugs was once thought to be a limiting factor on far they can spread, however according to the research, it might not be so clear.

Kudzu eggs laid in the spring hatch into a first generation, which researchers call Generation A. The immature bugs of Generation A normally feed on kudzu plants until they reach adulthood, when they have been known to move into commercial soybean fields. These mature adults lay eggs that hatch into Generation B during the summer months. Generation B kudzu bugs can feed on soybean crops during both their immature and adult life stages, causing significant crop damage.

Researchers thought that the pest would not be able to migrate to other parts of the United States, where kudzu doesn't grow. However, under controlled conditions in a laboratory, researchers at NC State found that immature Generation A kudzu bugs were not limited to feeding on kudzu — they were able to feed exclusively on soybeans, reach maturity and reproduce.

"Researchers began seeing some of this behavior in the wild in 2012 and ... our lab work and the field observations indicate that kudzu bugs are potentially capable of spreading into any part of the U.S. where soybeans are grown. And soybeans are grown almost everywhere," says Dr. Dominic Reisig, an assistant professor of entomology at NC State and co-author of a paper on the research. "It also means that both annual generations of kudzu bugs could attack soybean crops in areas where the bug is already established, which would double the impact on farmers."

The paper is published in the Journal of Economic Entomology.

Read more at NC State News.

Kudzu bug photo credit: Alejandro Del Pozo-Valdivia, via NC State News.

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