Kudzu bugs: Could they be coming to a neighborhood near you?

Let me be one of the first to say, "I told you so." Like the Asian ladybug invasion of about 15 years ago, or the soon to equal stink bug soiree, Kudzu bugs will join that rank of infamous pests you've come to loathe. It may not be next year. It may even take five years. But my bug prognosticating skills have never failed me. Especially since I just began that profession.

Kudzu bugs (Megacopta cribraria) are also known as bean bugs, lablab bugs, Kudzu beetles, and globular stink bugs. They are members of hemiptera, or true bugs, like their relatives bedbugs, box elder bugs and stink bugs. They are native to China and India and were first found in the United States in 2009 in the southeastern United States.

They are one-eighth to one-quarter inch long, oblong shaped, olive green in color with brown speckles, and have two red eyes. They are much wider than long, and will readily secrete an offensive odor if disturbed. Besides their obnoxious smell, their odorous liquid secretion will often leave a welt on the skin, often resulting in a rash. In addition, this irritation is often accompanied by a stain, which they can leave on the skin or any surface on which they are found.

Kudzu bugs are voracious eaters. They would be considered a beneficial insect if their diets were limited to Kudzu vines. This vine, also known as "The Plant that Ate the South," is an invasive weed species, dominating Georgia and the Carolinas. Their eggs are laid directly on plant leaves. These eggs hatch into nymphs, which start feeding immediately on the leaves. They will reach full maturity in about six weeks and start the cycle anew. There are two generations of adult bugs each year.

Unfortunately, these bugs have found their weakness in consuming soybeans and other legumes. Crop losses, up to 40 percent, have been associated with Kudzus, and the bugs are considered serious agricultural pests. As the Kudzu vine is rapidly spreading, so goes the Kudzus. They are moving northward along the Eastern seaboard, having recently been found as close as Ohio. Their Pennsylvania debut is expected shortly.

Kudzu bugs, like cluster flies and stink bugs, are temperature-driven. Cooler fall weather clues the Kudzus into searching for overwintering sites. Large masses of them will be on the exterior, essentially following the sun during the course of the day. Late day will have them gathering on the south and west sides of the structure. Evening marks their guest appearance inside, seeking out warmth and protection. They do not breed or multiply within.

My "better living through chemistry" mantra reigns supreme here. A fresh application of an exterior residual spray combined with an interior application of a dry dust formulation, will give you as good a result as to be expected. Like always, make sure to read and follow label directions.

As with all of these fall invaders, the key to successful control is a properly timed treatment, before these pests appear. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound or two of Kudzu bugs.

Henry Fox is the owner of Henry N. Fox Professional Pest Management. You can ask him questions at letstalkbugs@gmail.com.