The introduced kudzu bug has become a both a domestic and agricultural pest in southern states. In the spring and fall, in between active feeding and hibernation, adult kudzu bugs will aggregate on white surfaces such as houses and other buildings. These aggregations can be a nuisance to homeowners, as the insects secrete chemicals that cause both an offensive odor and will stain white surfaces. Most Maryland homeowners are already too familiar with home-invading insects because of another introduced insect, the brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys). Prevention measures for the kudzu bug are similar to those for the stink bug, including sealing cracks and gaps in doors and windows to prevent entry of the insects to your homes. For more information on how to protect your house from these insects, visit www.kudzubug.org.
In the south, kudzu bugs can move into soybean fields directly from overwintering and throughout the summer. Kudzu bugs cause damage to the plant by sucking out plant juices from leaves and stems. In severe cases, if the insects are left untreated, their feeding can cause losses in yield up to 50%. Kudzu bugs may also infest other leguminous crops, such as alfalfa and other beans. This insect may become a pest species for farmers growing soybeans in Maryland, current research is working to determine whether their numbers will increase high enough to cause economic damage. For more information on impacts to southern agriculture, visit www.kudzubug.org.
Although there is no evidence that the kudzu bug was intentionally introduced for biological control of kudzu vines, the insects do appear to have some impact on the growth of kudzu. Feeding by heavy infestations of the bug has been found to reduce the growth rate of kudzu vines where it has been introduced in the south. What effect, if any that the kudzu bug will have on the vine in Maryland is still unknown. For more information on kudzu vines in Maryland, see this article from University of Maryland Extension.
Kudzu bugs when handled release a liquid that can irritate and discolor the skin. Take precaution to limit direct skin exposure to the bugs. In most cases, the discoloration will fade over a few days to a week.