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The Mexico Ledger - Mexico, MO
  • Kudzu bug and fire ants

  • Jim Jarman is a Community Blogger for The Mexico Ledger
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  • Kudzu Bug, another stink bug coming our way
    The kudzu bug appears to be a faster mover than two other damaging stink bugs moving in our direction. Those other stink bugs, the marmorated and red banded stink bugs are still coming but have not been moving as fast as was originally predicted. Will the kudzu bug continue to spread at its present pace is also up to debate? As a serious soybean pest, central Missouri farmers need to be aware of its potential damage and appearance.
    Kudzu bugs are about1/4 of an inch long, sort of oblong when viewed from above with an olive, green color and brown speckles. They can have several generations a year with at least two generations seen on soybeans in infested southeastern states. The immature kudzu bug looks a little more like a stink bug shaped like a shield, green but with hairs or spines giving it a fuzzy appearance.
    Some of its other names include the bean plataspid, kudzu beetle, globular stink bug and lablab bug. Some people call it the kudzu beetle because its wings are covered like beetles which are different than other stink bugs with exposed wings.
    Some additional host plants include wisteria, green beans and other legumes. A curious observation is from Japan where the kudzu bug is a pest but does not attack soybeans.
    Kudzu bugs suck juice from the stems of soybean plants and may reduce crop yield by as much as 30 percent. More "good" news is they are invasive in homes attracted by white or light colored walls or surfaces. They do not feed on house plants or people but can stain surfaces when crushed and their blood may be irritating to sensitive individuals. Being stink bugs, they give off an offensive odor when touched or squashed.
    Kudzu bugs were first seen in Georgia in 2009. They have infested across all or most of three states in three years, Georgia, North and South Carolina. It partially infests Tennessee, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Virginia. At least some of this rapid spread is probably from hitchhiking. It is not known if climate, lack of kudzu or efforts to limit its spread on equipment, cars or plants will keep it away from central Missouri.
    The only positive attribute is in states or regions where kudzu is a problem weed. Kudzu bugs feed on kudzu causing injury and limiting its growth.
    Research in infested states has provided a list of effective insecticides. Many but not all of these insecticides are labeled for use against kudzu bugs. Its recent arrival and fast spread has meant some chemical companies have not been able to keep up with labeling changes. Several well-known pyrethroids, organophosphates and a carbamate insecticide give 80+ to high 90 percent control. By the time kudzu bugs arrive in Missouri, most if not all the more effective insecticides should have full labeling. Research has also begun on introducing biological control agents.
    Page 2 of 2 - Fire ants mobilize in the aftermath of disaster
    When natural disaster hits, fire ants may follow, says a University of Missouri Extension entomologist.
    Ice storms in 2009 destroyed trees and landscaping in southern Missouri. Joplin's devastating 2011 tornado leveled hundreds of buildings. Replacement mulch, plants and trees brought in from out of state may have carried hitchhiking fire ants. After this year's drought, livestock producers who bought hay from southern states also may have inadvertently offered these ants a ride to a new home in Missouri.
    About 15-20 of Missouri's 114 counties are at risk of infestation by red imported fire ants, said state extension entomologist Richard Houseman earlier this month during the MU Extension Agriculture and Natural Resource Annual Conference at the MU Bradford Research Center.
    Native to South America, these aggressive insects first appeared in the southern U.S. during the 1930s or 1940s. Now, 14 states are home to this ant, which stings 5 million people annually in addition to killing ground-nesting animals and birds.
    Fire ants aggressively defend their mounds by biting and stinging. About a dozen people die annually in the U.S. from hypersensitivity to the alkaloid venom in the stinger, which causes a fiery sensation similar to a burn.
    Houseman estimated that the economic impact of red imported fire ants in Florida exceeds $1 billion annually, including repair to potholes, electrical boxes and other items in urban areas. The Food and Drug Administration estimates that more than $5 billion is spent each year on medical treatment, damage and control in infested areas. Furthermore, the ants cost agriculture about $750 million annually in the form of veterinarian bills and livestock and crop loss.
    Treating an infestation of red imported fire ants is normally a two-step process. The ants' mound is thoroughly soaked with a liquid insecticide and fire ant bait is then applied over the area within 30 feet of the mound.
    General information about identifying and controlling fire ants is available at www.extension.org/fire_ants. For more information: Richard Houseman, University of Missouri, housemanr@missouri.edu or 573-882-7181; Collin Wamsley, Missouri Department of Agriculture, colllin.wamsley@mda.mo.gov or 573-751-5505; Mike Brown, USDA-APHIS, michael.e.brown@aphis.usda.gov or 573-893-6833
    The good news for central Missouri is this pest will likely have a hard time establishing colonies here due to our cooler winter temperatures.
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