Stinky kudzu bugs invading north Georgia

by: Diana Davis Updated:

ATLANTA,None - Foul smelling kudzu bugs have invaded the Southeast and they’re popping up in homes across metro Atlanta.

The pesky bugs are swarming into eyes, hair and ears and Channel 2’s Diana Davis found out the bugs have even been spotted on the top floors of some Atlanta high rises.

Ron Battle of Bowen United Methodist Church told Davis it ruined a church outing last weekend in southwest Atlanta.

“They were all in your face. (They) fly in your ears, your mouth, everywhere. This is gross. This one woman, she was covered from the top to the bottom with the bugs. It was like she was decorated in bugs,” Gardner said.

The bugs invaded Doris Vaughn's house in Griffin.  She told Davis the odor from the bugs was so bad she called her niece for help.

“I asked her, did she smell anything? She said, ‘Yes, what is it?'  I said, ‘I don’t know but it got us sick'. We stayed here and tried to tough it out but sure ‘nuff it smelled bad,” Vaughn said.

University of Georgia entomologist Wayne Gardner told Davis the kudzu bugs invaded Georgia and the Southeast two years ago. The bugs come from somewhere in Asia, but Gardner said no one is sure how they got here.  The bugs feed on the juices from the kudzu plant.

“They have a beak and they insert it into the plant material. Usually they insert it into the stem and they will suck the foliage out. So it’s not like they are chewing foliage away. They actually remove nutrients from the plant that they are feeding on,” Gardner said.

The bug’s meal of choice is not only kudzu, but soybean crops and that is causing big problems for soybean farmers, according to Gardner.  

“You wouldn’t believe how many insects get on an individual plant. They are causing 20-to-30-percent yield loss,” he said. The bugs, which are scientifically known as megacopta cribraria, are voracious eaters but they don’t eat enough to wipe out kudzu.

Entomologists say the bugs are not dangerous to humans, they don’t sting or bite, and they can swarm a home or structure without causing damage. The indescribable odor is actually a defense mechanism, said Gardner. He told Davis the only way to eliminate the bugs is to wait until the weather turns cold and they hibernate.