I have received many calls to the extension office in the past few weeks about small brown bugs swarming on houses and irritating gardeners.
These little pests are called kudzu bugs, and they have been annoying north Georgia outdoor lovers since 2009.
Kudzu bugs, known to the scientific world as Megacopta cribraria, are native to Asia.
Their favorite food source is, of course, the kudzu vine.
Kudzu was brought to the United States from Asia to help control erosion and quickly spread all over the southeast.
Some thought the introduction of the kudzu bug would help control the weedy nature of the kudzu vine, but the bug has made itself a nuisance to homeowners and farmers instead.
When spring weather arrives, as it has to north Georgia in the past few weeks, the kudzu bugs emerge from their winter resting sites and begin to exhibit swarming behavior.
They particularly like to congregate on white and other light-colored houses and buildings.
The bugs are only 1/8 of an inch long which allows them to crawl between small cracks and openings in houses easily. Many homeowners have come home to a pack of kudzu bugs inside.
The best way to get rid of kudzu bugs in your home is to vacuum them up and immediately empty the bag, or gently sweep them up.
Georgia gardening expert Walter Reeves recommends putting them in a bucket of water after sweeping.
Do not crush them. They will emit a nasty odor and may stain many household surfaces. It may also be necessary to seal gaps and cracks around windows and doors to prevent entry into the home. Check for a tight seal around wall sockets and light switches. You might consider installing a door sweep. Any opening in the wall is a potential entry point for the bugs. Using an insecticide indoors for controlling kudzu bugs is not recommended.
If you are outside in the garden or walking around town and a few kudzu bugs decide to land on you, be careful. Try not to flick them off. They could leave an unpleasant odor on your fingers and clothes. Instead, try gently brushing them off of your clothes.
If the kudzu bugs are swarming on your house, any outdoor insecticide labeled for use on stink bugs can be used. This will kill the present bugs, but it will not provide a long term solution for control. There will most likely be many more kudzu bugs waiting nearby to pester you.
Georgia agriculture is also suffering because of the presence of kudzu bugs. Kudzu is a close relative of soybean. This means that kudzu bugs will seek out soybean as a preferred food source when available. The big appetites of the kudzu bugs, along with their overwhelming numbers, have discouraged many Georgia farmers from continuing to grow soybeans.
I have also gotten some callers telling me that the kudzu bugs are feeding heavily on certain leafy garden plants.
A quick and easy control method for kudzu bugs simply does not exist yet. The best method is to use a multi-step approach and try to exclude them from your home.
Like the gnats of south Georgia, kudzu bugs might be a pest we will have to learn to live with for a while.
Clark MacAllister is the Dawson County extension agent. For more information, call (706)265-2442.