Friday, January 04, 2013

Scientists trying to tame kudzu bug, which eats its namesake, but threatens to be as big a pest

When scientists announced they had discovered a bug that loved to eat the invasive kudzu vine that has swallowed large patches of Southern forest, residents were relieved. The aptly nicknamed kudzu bug can kill off half an infestation of its namesake in just a couple of years. But now, the bean plastapid is causing problems, S. Heather Duncan of the Macon Telegraph reports. (University of Georgia photo)

The kudzu bug also likes to eat soybeans and wisteria, along with some other ornamental plants. It smells bad, tries to invade houses, flies in clouds, leaves behind orange stains and can cause skin rashes. "In a debate about which is the bigger pest, kudzu might actually lose," Duncan writes. The bugs first invaded Georgia in 2009 from Japan, and have spread "with breathtaking speed" since then. Now they are also found in South Carolina and six other states, which Duncan did not name.

Officials are trying to determine how to slow the spread of the bugs or reduce their destructiveness. University of Georgia scientist Tracie Jenkins discovered that all kudzu bugs in the U.S. descended from a single female. She's collected more than 300 bugs from eight states and is looking for genes that offer resistance to insecticides so they could be weakened. She has also identified bacteria inside the bug that helps it digest food, which could be altered to kill the bug. (Read more)

No comments: