Hold your noses: prepare for nastier stinkbugs

Christine Illes
Associate Photo Editor

As if those darn stinkbugs weren’t enough of a pain to deal with.

Beginning in October of 2013, it has been said that a relatively new and nastier stinkbug is on the border of Pennsylvania. The Megacopta cribraria, known as the kudzu bug, comes from Asia and has been seen in large numbers in the south. According to Tennessee’s Chattanooga Times Free Press, they first showed up in 2009 at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, most likely arriving from a plane from Asia, where they are predominant. They’re around 3.5 to 6 millimeters long, and have an amorlike shell, looking like a stinkbug and beetle mixed together.

Megacopta cribraria, known as the kudzu bug, could possibly be coming as early as this fall.
Megacopta cribraria, known as the kudzu bug, could possibly be coming as early as this fall.

They have a beak used for ripping and feeding onto plants. They can be distinguished from the average stinkbug here in Pennsylvania by their olive-green and brown speckled color, along with their red eyes. They are known to be strong fliers and travel in large numbers, making it up to the hundreds.

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Although there have been rumors, the kudzu bugs do not bite. According to CBS Pittsburgh, they are not carnivorous and just do not have the “right equipment” to bite. What they do have is a foul, distinct odor, smelling a lot worse than the stinkbugs Pennsylvanians are used to. They also leave a nasty stain and can even cause skin irritation when smashed. Trib Total Media of western Pennsylvania reported a story about a woman in Georgia who called 911 because she thought there was a gas leak in her home.

There turned out to be no gas leak, rescue crews determining that the odor was coming from the kudzu bugs covering her window and door screens. Erin Cook, 39, of Barnesville, Ga, also reported to Trib Total Media that the bugs can even get in your hair and cover cars. Her baby shower last year had to be moved indoors because of the bugs, covering the decorations and leaving trails of “brown stuff” all over. When you are outside, it is hard to get away from them. The bugs look for warm places to stay during the winter, are attracted to light-colored surfaces, and search for cracks and crevices within cars and homes to stay cozy. This may be great for them, but not for homeowners.

This map shows the kudzu bug’s distribution in the United States.
This map shows the kudzu bug’s distribution in the United States.

The bugs get their name from the kudzu vines they eat, which are prevalent in the south. Soybean crops have been a major concern, Georgia field tests showing 10 to 80 percent crop losses, according to Trib Total Media. There has been some success with insecticides, and Pennsylvania farmers are well aware of the potential threat.

As of now, it seems the kudzu bug is nearly on the border of Pennsylvania, and has been sighted as far north as Delaware and Maryland. They are definitely expected to migrate here to Pennsylvania, but luckily for us, it may take some time for that to happen. This long cold winter has prolonged their migration, but a large level of infestation, such as the one going on in the south, may not happen for at least another year or two, according to CBS Pittsburgh. The earliest we may see them is this coming fall.

Be prepared to call the exterminator when the kudzu bug comes to the area because this is not your average stinkbug.