The Washington Post

Kudzu bug spreads to Maryland

Kudzu bugs are similar to stink bugs. (Charles Slate/AP)

Of pests and predators the Washington region has no shortage, and it appears that a new one has arrived on the scene: the kudzu bug.

University of Maryland researchers have found the new arrival this summer in five counties in the region, including Prince George’s, Charles and Anne Arundel, the university said. The research team under entomology professor William Lamp has also detected it in Calvert and St. Mary’s counties, the university said. It has also been reported in several Virginia counties, including Culpeper, Frederick and Warren.

So far it has not been blamed for any large-scale harm, but the Maryland Agriculture Department has begun to raise awareness of the alien crop-eating creature. It can reduce soybean yields, the department said, and can also be a household nuisance.

Hence it may come to be recognized along with the snakehead and the stinkbug as another unwelcome invader from abroad to establish a foothold in the region and beyond.

“We want farmers to be aware that the kudzu bug is here and that it is another insect they may have to manage as the season progresses and in the years ahead,” Deputy Agriculture Mary Ellen Setting said in a prepared statement. In this country, authorities said, the Asia native was first found in Georgia in 2009 and has since spread to several other Southeastern states.

So far, the U-Md. group that has been tracking the pest has not found huge populations, according to Alan Leslie, a graduate student in the group. But, he said in a statement, “that might be due to the fact that it’s just new here.”

He added, however, that “the potential is there” for the kudzu bug to be an economic pest. And, he said, “now that we know for sure it’s here,” further study is warranted to determine how much impact it will have.

The name given to the olive-brown bug, which even at full size is less than one-fourth inch in length, comes from the kudzu vine, on which it typically feeds. Its spread has been facilitated by the ample kudzu supply in the Southeast.

But not content to confine its haunts to the vines, it may migrate to soybeans and other types of available beans, the Agriculture Department said.

So far, all of the kudzu bugs found in Maryland have been collected from the vines, not the beans, but “they may be heading that way,” the department said.

In addition, the university noted, much like the notorious brown marmorated stink bug, the kudzu bug can be an annoying household pest. Crushed, it can stain surfaces, irritate skin and “emit an unpleasant odor,” the university said.

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