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Asian bug finds way into Georgia

If Joe Eger hadn’t stopped by Dan Suiter’s University of Georgia insect lab, homeowners in northeast Atlanta still wouldn’t know anything about the bug swarming their houses.

And soybean growers wouldn’t know that it’s likely headed for their fields.

Suiter receives insect specimens from pesticide applicators, and his wife, Alisa Ames, works on insect diagnosis for UGA Extension personnel. Both were stumped by the bugs coming in from about eight counties starting in October.

Key Points

• New bug found near Atlanta feeds on kudzu and soybean.

• A traveler who brought back plant material likely introduced it.

• The bug, expected to spread quickly, isn’t yet in soybean fields.

Then Eger, a stinkbug expert formerly at Louisiana State University who now works for Dow AgroSciences and focuses primarily on termites, stopped in Suiter’s office to work on a joint project they’re running on termites. Suiter showed him the bug.

“There may be five, no more than 10 people in the United States who could have looked at this bug and site-identified it,” Suiter says. “Joe is one of them.”

The bug is from the family Plataspidae, scientific name, Mega copta cribraria. It’s an Asian relative of a stinkbug.

“This entire family of insects is Asian. If you took an insect class anywhere in the United States, you wouldn’t hear about this family of bugs,” Suiter says. “It’s luck. If Joe hadn’t made that visit, we wouldn’t be talking right now.”

What isn’t lucky is that the bug likely will spread quickly. It’s climbing all over sides of homes in the Atlanta area and feeding on kudzu.

“We caught it pretty early, but it’s going to spread,” Suiter says. “It’s going to spread pretty quickly.”

It’s preferred host is kudzu, but it’s also a soybean pest.

“We haven’t found it on any soybean,” Suiter says. “We don’t know if it’s going to be a pest of soybean, or if it is, how big a problem it’s going to be.”

University of Georgia Extension entomologists, however, will be looking for it this season.

“We will be monitoring this situation closely [this] spring,” says UGA Extension entomologist Phillip Roberts. “If we detect the new bug on soybeans, one of our first objectives will be to see if we can control it with insecticides. We have a little preliminary data, but more insecticide efficacy data is needed.”

The take-home message here, according to Suiter, is to avoid bringing home bugs.

Someone in northeast Atlanta, which has a large Asian population, brought this bug into the United States.

“This is why they have you fill out that little card when you fly into the country and ask whether you’ve been on any farm or have any plant material,” Suiter says. “They literally brought some plant material back.” And a couple of bugs or a few eggs — which now are thousands.


NEW BUG: This Asian visitor started showing up on homes and in kudzu patches near Atlanta in October.

This article published in the February, 2010 edition of SOUTHERN FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.