Kudzu bugs swarming in rural Madison County

At his rural Madison County home, Shawn Saunders currently is enduring what he calls a “bug swarm of biblical proportions.”

“By 6 o’clock (in the evening), you won’t want to be out here,” he said this week in his front yard, where kudzu bugs used him, his two sons, his boat, home and everything else in sight as perches.

Saunders lives south of Danielsville near a large soybean field off Moons Grove Road.

About a week ago, the kudzu bugs started to swarm. By Sunday, Saunders said the swarms made it to his home off Kellogg Drive.

Though the kudzu bug experience is new to Saunders, many others know the creatures all too well as this new invasive pest continues it aggressive proliferation on the American landscape.

These small green bugs, about the size and shape of native ladybugs, have spread into six states since introduced in the Atlanta area in 2009.

“I don’t want them in the house,” Saunders said. “I’m glad they are an annoyance and not anything dangerous.”

Even Madison County Extension Service agent Adam Speir finds himself picking the alien bugs off his clothing when he arrives for work.

“Our office in Danielsville is right across from a soybean field,” he said. “We have a lantana plant next to the door and they seem to like it. I’m always bringing three or four in with me when I come in the office.”

Kudzu bugs are native to Asia, where they feed on the kudzu vine, but they also feed on legumes, including soybeans, peas and beans, Speir said.

“Our best guess is they came in on a flight from Asia to Atlanta at the airport. That’s our best guess considering that we first discovered them in the metro Atlanta area,” Speir said about the bugs that swarm twice each year.

They swarm in the spring, usually about March or April, when they come out of their winter hideaways, and again in September or October, when once again the bugs begin looking for a place of refuge for the upcoming winter, said Speir.

“They swarm for two to three weeks at the most,” he said. “The bad news is that some folks will have kudzu bugs trying to camp in their roof or house to find a warm place to live.”

The bugs, while harmless to people, suck on the legume plants, which stresses the plant and causes a reduction in crop yields, he said.

The bugs are a type of stink bug, Speir said.

Saunders quickly discovered that fact when his property was engulfed by an unstoppable wave of the bugs.

“They stink something fierce,” he said.

• Follow Around Here editor/writer Wayne Ford on Facebook at www.facebook.com/WayneFordABH.

Wayne Ford/Staff

Joshua Saunders stands in his front yard in Madison County as a few kudzu bugs start to land on his shirt.

By late afternoon on Tuesday, kudzu bugs were swarming off a soybean field and many were landing on road signs, poles and trees along Moons Grove Church Road south of Danielsville.