Both stink bugs and kudzu bugs are part of the order of insects known as hemiptera, which are often called true bugs. Although these species have evolved separately, they still have many behaviors in common, including congregating and overwintering in homes and the unpleasant odor they use as a defense. These bugs are invasive species that continue to move across the country and cause trouble for farmers and homeowners alike. This ultimate guide will take you through the identification, behavior, and control methods of kudzu bugs and stink bugs.
What do kudzu bugs look like?
Kudzu bugs (megacopta cribraria) are a relatively new invasive insect in the United States. They are native to India and China and were first discovered in Georgia in 2009. Kudzu bugs are approximately 4-6 mm long with an olive green coloring. They have a round shape, rather than the triangular or elliptical shape that is common among most shield bugs. They can be distinguished from other stink bugs because they are much wider than they are long. The scutellum, or plate on their back, is wider on the bottom than at the top, and it appears that a seam runs lengthwise across the plate. Like other true bugs, kudzu bugs have semi-membranous wings and a beak-like mouth that is used for piercing or sucking.
Kudzu Bugs By Judy Gallagher [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
What do kudzu bugs eat?
Kudzu bugs feed on the kudzu vine that is an invasive plant that is now becoming common in the southeastern United States. The states of Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Louisiana are all facing this new threat. Kudzu bugs use their piercing mouths to tap into the plant’s veins and suck the juices from the stem and leaves. Although they prefer the kudzu vine, these bugs also love wisteria, soybeans, peas, peanuts, and garden beans. Kudzu bugs can cause injury to the plants and have become a major detriment to agriculture in the region. In one kudzu bug study in 2011, researchers found that the average yield loss due to kudzu bugs on untreated soybean crops was 18%.
Kudzu Vine — the primary food source for kudzu bugs
Are kudzu bugs dangerous?
Kudzu bugs are not dangerous in a health sense. They do not bite, sting, or transmit diseases. They can, however, be major nuisances. When a kudzu bug is disturbed or crushed, it will emit a foul smelling odor, earning it the nickname “globular stink bug.” If crushed, the kudzu bug can stain fabrics and other materials and cause skin irritation.
Why are kudzu bugs considered household pests?
Aside from the damage they do to agriculture, kudzu bugs have also become a problem for homeowners. During the summer, you probably won’t notice kudzu bugs, but in early fall, they start to congregate in large numbers on the sunny side of surfaces like homes, sheds, fences, etc. They are particularly attracted to light colors and especially white. Once they are on the side of homes, they will squeeze into cracks or crevices to find a warm place to overwinter. If your home is not properly sealed, kudzu bugs will find their way into your home where they will go dormant until spring. They do not feed or reproduce indoors, but it can be quite a shock when they wake up on the first warm days of early spring and fly through the house trying to find a way outside. Trying to squash them or step on them is a bad idea because the unpleasant odor may be hard to get out of furniture and carpets. Instead, your best bet is to practice the prevention methods that will be mentioned at the end of this article.
What do stink bugs look like?
There are many different species of stink bugs, 200 in North America alone. They are all fairly similar in basic shape and behavior, so we will just mention the most troublesome one from a pest control point of view. The brown marmorated stink bug (halyomorpha halys) is the most notorious stink bug in the United States. It is also an invasive species that is native to Asia. It was first discovered in Pennsylvania in 1996, but has since spread throughout much of the country. These stink bugs are grayish-brown with 6 legs, 2 pairs of wings, and antennae. Brown marmorated stink bugs are typically about ¾ of an inch long and shield or triangular shaped. They can be distinguished from other shield bugs by their lighter bands on the antennae and darker bands on the sides of the wings. Nymphs are yellow and red with red eyes.
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug
What do stink bugs eat?
Stink bugs suck the juices from the fruit, leaves, stems, and roots of plants. Host plants can range from ornamental plants to weeds. Adults feed on fruit like peaches, apples, tomatoes, and soybeans. Their feeding habits can create dimpled areas on the fruit, leaf stippling, and seed loss. Stink bugs can cause widespread damage to agricultural crops.1
Do stink bugs bite?
The majority of species of stink bugs do not and cannot bite. Brown marmorated stink bugs have a beak-shaped sucking mouth, so biting through human skin is very unlikely. There are a few species of predatory stink bugs that can bite. These stink bugs eat other bugs and are generally considered beneficial because they eat pests like bean beetles, potato beetles, and caterpillars. Although these stink bugs technically can bite, it is still unlikely that they will do so. If you do receive a stink bug bite, it may form a painful red welt, but they do not transmit disease or parasites. While they are not dangerous, if they are threatened or crushed, they will emit a nasty odor, which can be a major nuisance.
What do stink bugs smell like?
The smell of a stink bug varies by species, but most people say they have the smell of strong herbs or spices. Cilantro and coriander are two herbs that are often mentioned when describing the foul smell.
Why are stink bugs household pests?
Like kudzu bugs, stink bugs tend to congregate on south and southwest facing walls during the fall. They like to soak up the warmth and find a good place to overwinter. Of all the species of stink bugs, the brown marmorated stink bug is the one most likely to enter homes. Once inside the home, they will find a place to go through diapause (a form of hibernation) during the winter. Common places where stink bugs hide are attics, crawl spaces, basements, and wall voids. Once they are there, they likely won’t come out until it warms up in the spring.
How to Prevent Stink Bugs
Once stink bugs (or kudzu bugs) get into your home, there is not much that can be done to get rid of them, so prevention becomes very important. Sealing the exterior of the home is one of the most important things that can be done to prevent nearly all pest problems, but there are other helpful tips as well.
- Locate and seal small cracks and crevices with a good latex caulk
- Seal larger gaps and holes with steel wool and expandable spray foam
- Make sure all vents, soffits, chimneys, etc. are covered with a fine stainless steel mesh
- Check screens in windows and doors to ensure that they are in good condition
- Install door sweeps and/or weatherstripping
- Make sure doors, windows, and garage doors are tight fitting.
- For kudzu bugs, removal of kudzu vine is very important for effective prevention
- Turn off outdoor lights that will attract stink bugs
- Close blinds or shades at night to prevent the light from inside your home attracting them
- Reduce the moisture around your home by fixing leaks, clogs, and drainage problems
How to Get Rid of Stink Bugs
Getting rid of stink bugs and kudzu bugs inside the home is difficult because crushing them or killing them can leave a bad smell in your home. Instead, experts at PestWorld.org recommend vacuuming them up. After they have been vacuumed, remove and empty the contents into a sealed plastic bag and dispose of it. This is an important step because dead stink bugs or kudzu bugs can leave a bad smell that will permeate the vacuum if left in it. Another method is to place nylons or pantyhose over the end of the vacuum hose and attach it with a rubber band. To kill kudzu bugs, empty them from the vacuum hose and put them in hot soapy water.
If there are large numbers of kudzu bugs on the exterior of the home, you can spray the walls with a long-lasting insecticide. These perimeter treatments are great for keeping many different pests out of the home. When forming a barrier, it is often recommended to go at least three feet up the wall and three feet out from the foundation. If kudzu bugs or stink bugs are the main problem, focus on the south and southwest exterior walls and entry points. Insecticides tend to deteriorate more quickly in sunshine, so you may need to reapply every few weeks throughout the fall. Harris Stink Bug Killer is a great option to get rid of stink bugs and kudzu bugs, both indoors and outdoors.
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