So, you need to get rid of kudzu bugs. Naturally. And fast.
I wrote this comprehensive guide on kudzu pest control. It contains pretty much all the effective home remedies you can do DIY style to get rid of kudzu bugs.
Everything you need to know is here in one place. This is a pretty lengthy read (be sure to bookmark the page), so feel free to come back and refer to it during your journey to rid these pests.
We’ll cover kudzu identification, signs that you have kudzu bugs, ways to get rid of kudzu bugs naturally, and then how to control and prevent further kudzu problems.
Sound good? Let’s get kudzu-free!
Last updated: 12/30/19.
What’s a kudzu bug?
Kudzu bugs are a unique pest that has a distinctive shape and color.
They’re considered true bugs and have piercing mouthparts, which can be used to penetrate their food source.
Just like their name states, they eat the kudzu vines. However, they’ve also been reported to eat more than just that plant!
They’re also known by a few other names:
- Kudzu beetle
- Globular stink bug
- Lablab bug
- Black kudzu bug
- Bean plataspid
- Japanese kudzu
They’re also often found in huge numbers crawling all over the vine plants, and they can release a scent to repel predators just like stink bugs.
Killing off an entire swarm of kudzu bugs, they’ll likely come back later.
They can be very difficult to control and prevent, so you’ll have to use a variety of DIY killers, sprays, and natural repellents to get rid of kudzu bugs.
What do Kudzu Bugs look like?
Kudzu bugs range from a moldy green to tannish color and have 6 visible legs with a pair of antennae. They have an ovular body shape with a beaklike, piercing mouthpart.
They almost look like a globular shield from the back.
They’re about 4-6mm in length and have bulging eyes with spotted coloration along the back. They have a pair of semimembranosus wings and look similar to overgrown beetles. They’re similar in shape to carpet beetles or cigarette beetles, just a different size.
They’re broader at the bottom than the top and they have a seam running across their plate.
They’re often confused with beetles, as they both have a similar body shape with a rounded abdomen.
There are many varieties of kudzu bugs. Some of the more popular ones are the black kudzu bug and the Japanese kudzu bug.
When do kudzu bugs come out?
They’re often out during the late afternoon as soon as the temperatures start to warm up.
They’re not active during the cooler early mornings or evenings. If you’re wondering when they’re active on a daily basis, this should answer your question.
When are kudzu bugs active during the seasons?
They overwinter during the cooler months and break out in numbers that can be overwhelming when temperatures pick up.
Kudzu bugs also are known to create a disturbing, repulsive odor when they’re disturbed (such as if you try to kill them or rustle them).
These pests are often spotted during the cooler months, such as fall. Then they start appearing in huge numbers and this is when homeowners start to notice them and look for ways to get rid of them.
Where do they hide?
During the wintertime, they’ll take shelter to overwinter and may become a pest inside homes.
They’ll hide in cracks, crevices, wall voids, attics, and even basements to stay warm.
One thing to note is that kudzu bugs won’t breed nor eat when they’re indoors, as they stay dormant during this part of the year until temperatures pick up again.
Similar to both cluster flies and boxelder bugs, they take shelter in homes during the colder season.
Some other indoor places where they’ll hide:
- Cracks in your foundation
- Crevices around your home
- Under furniture
- Between objects
- Crawl spaces
- Vent or gutter voids
- Storage areas
Outdoors, they’ll feed and lay eggs from summer to fall. After that, they seek out darker, sheltered areas to protect them from the cold.
Some common outdoors areas where they’ll hide during the winter:
- Under rocks
- Around bark
- Within leaf litter
- Behind siding
- Deep within cracks or crevices
After temps go up, they’ll start feeding and breeding, which is when people start to notice them in whopping numbers.
Something else to know about these bugs: they’re attracted to light-colored surfaces, like white countertops, walls, and furniture. And let’s not forget outdoors either, such as white houses, fencing, and walls.
Kudzu bug life cycle
The life cycle of a kudzu bug is pretty simple and straightforward.
They’re considered to be hemimetabolous insects, which means they go through an incomplete metamorphosis throughout their life.
Starts from an egg
They start out as an egg, laid by a female kudzu bug after mating. The eggs are laid in clutches of about 30 eggs on kudzu leaves and foliage, along with soybeans and wisteria.
They’re laid neatly in two rows with about 15 eggs each. You can easily spot kudzu eggs because of how the eggs are laid out.
Underneath each egg also has a colony of bacteria. When the kudzu bugs emerge from the eggs, they eat the bacteria to survive and start digesting the plant.
Then to a nymph
The bug will continue to feed on the host plant and then go through five nymph cycles. They’ll have spotted colors and vary in appearance.
They may also have hairs coming out of their body. Their overall color will range from olive green, orange, or even tan. They’ll continue to eat for about 6-8 weeks before maturing into adults.
And finally an adult
As an adult, they’ll start to become a pest that we humans have to deal with. During the cooler months (fall to winter), they seek shelter to protect them from the cold (overwintering).
They’ll often make their way into homes and this is typically when we first notice them. Kudzu bugs also overwinter outdoors under natural shelter, but if there’s a home available, they’ll gladly take over.
After the temperatures pick up again, they’ll continue to eat and breed. Then the cycle repeats all over again.
Two generations per year
There are at least two generations of kudzus produced per year, also known as a bivoltine life cycle. This is why they produce so many so quickly.
If you’ve never seen a kudzu swarm, they’re almost as bad as a cluster fly swarm.
Where do kudzu bugs live?
Kudzu bugs are a relatively new pest that was added to the US registry of invasive species.
Their original state seems to be Georgia from my online research, and they surfaced around 2009, so they’re actually a relatively new species compared to other old-timer pests.
They’re believed to originate from the east and have come to the US.
Kudzu bugs are most commonly found in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, District of Columbia, Arkansas, Delaware, Tennessee, and of course, Georgia.
There have also been reports of kudzu bugs in California, probably coming over for Georgia via plane. So they have a sparse dispersion in the US, but both eastern and western states are now places where they can be found.
What do kudzu bugs eat?
Kudzu bugs have a piercing mouthpart to pierce the vine plant and suck out the nutrients from the kudzu vine. Larger adults will eat the stems while the nymphs eat the veins on the leaves.
They’ve also been reported to be eating more than just kudzu vines. They also eat soybeans and other various legumes.
So if you’re growing these plants in your garden, kudzu bugs can be a pest you’ll want to get rid of. This may be detrimental to farmers and others growing these cash crops. They’re a known threat towards soybean plants.
Other plants that kudzu bugs are known to eat:
- White sweet clover
- Pigeon pea
- Black eye pea
- Perennial peanut
- American joint vetch
- White clover
- White clover
- Pinto bean
- Red clover
- Lima bean
- Kudzu plants (of course)
- Other legumes
Do kudzu bugs fly?
Yes, kudzu bugs can fly.
You’ll typically see them flying around during the late morning all the until sunset. They’re less active when temperatures are cool and will come out and start to become a real pest when the temperatures pick up.
They’ll fly to eat, breed, and of course, to move around. They’ll take off when you disturb them and fly to another safe location to continue feeding.
Do kudzu bugs bite?
No, kudzu bites don’t bite, sting, nor carry diseases. So they’re safe towards humans.
But even then, you probably don’t want a ton of them swarming your house indoors or outdoors. Plus they release that odor when they’re disturbed or killed, just like stink bugs.
This scent smells very similar to stink bugs actually, and anyone in the south who has dealt with them before knowing exactly what I’m talking about.
Do kudzu bug burn skin?
Although kudzu bugs don’t bite humans, they may burn or irritate the skin.
This is because if you crush them with your bare hands, the chemical odor they release after being squished can have a burning effect.
You should avoid smushing, slapping, or otherwise crushing kudzu bugs when they’re on your skin because the nasty smelling odor they release will have a slight burning sensation on your skin.
The chemical that they secrete can actually be powerful enough to discolor your skin, so you definitely want to avoid squishing them.
Other than just plain smelling bad, the chemical can discolor your skin and cause some moderate pain. The same goes for your clothes, furniture, walls, and any other surfaces on you or your home.
Avoid squeezing them because they’ll discolor your stuff and can have a lasting mark on your skin. Always use a safe manual removal method (covered later in this pest control guide).
How did the kudzu bug get to the United States?
The kudzu bug is thought to have come to the US from the far east by a plane shipment arriving in Atlanta, Georgia. This is where they’re thought to have come from.
That was the first place believed where kudzu bugs first landed on US soil and started to become the invasive species they are today.
They’ve since then migrated to neighboring states on the east coast, such as Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina. There have also been reports in California, so they’re not limited to the east coast.
What problems do they cause?
The main problems with kudzu bugs are that they’ll eat up soybeans and other cash crops.
Of course, this affects farmers and growers more than the average household owner. However, the bug definitely remains a pest no matter where you deal with them.
How do I know if I have kudzu bugs?
Other than taking notice of them simply by the large numbers they produce, you’ll also see some other telltale signs of an infestation.
Kudzu bugs will feed on plants and you may notice your garden plants being eaten.
You’ll likely find a ton of them swarming through your home, all over the walls, floors, and furniture. It could literally look like a pest nightmare, so make no mistake about it. If you see a ton of these pests around the home, you’re likely dealing with kudzus.
Another obvious sign of kudzu bugs: The scent. They release a pretty nasty and foul odor when they’re disturbed. One or two won’t smell, but when you have a swarm of them all over your home or garden, you’ll definitely be able to smell their chemical release.
This should be enough to identify kudzu bugs off the bat.
How to get rid of kudzu bugs naturally
This section covers a few DIY home remedies you can utilize to get rid of kudzu bugs using natural means, rather than harmful chemicals.
Use a bunch of these and see one works best for you.
Then scale that method up.
How do you control kudzu bugs?
Because the pest is still new to the US, there aren’t any “standard” ways of controlling them. If you’re on a farm, you’ll have to consider using full-scale pesticides and possibly predator/parasite alternatives, like nematodes.
For those at home, you have plenty more options since you’re likely dealing with them on a smaller scale.
Here are some options you can utilize as home remedies that you can DIY to get rid of kudzu bugs naturally.
Prune your plants
This is probably an obvious one, but getting rid of the plant that they’re eating will eventually reduce their population.
When you identify the crop or plant that the bugs are feeding off of (probably kudzu vines or soybeans), you can consider pruning or completely eradicating the plant entirely.
If you get rid of the plant that feeds the bugs, then they’ll have nothing to sustain themselves. Thus, they’ll eventually migrate or simply starve.
Stick to a mowing schedule and regularly maintain your plants. I cover this later in this guide for more details. You can skip to it if you want- it’s under “Kill kudzu plants to remove the bugs.”
If you don’t want to kill off the plants completely, then you should trim and prune them. With less foliage and plant matter available to the bugs, their population will dwindle naturally.
If you have a relatively small infestation, such as a single plant that you’re finding them on, you can use essential oils as a natural repellent.
Some of the most effective oils are lavender, tea tree, and peppermint. You can buy these at any grocery store.
Add a few drops to a spray bottle and fill the rest with water. There’s no “perfect” ratio. The end result should be a mixture that smells strongly of the essential oil. You can use more or less water depending on how potent you want the mixture to be.
Try a few different variations and see what works best to repel the pests.
Even though kudzu bugs taste terrible with the smelly residue they leave behind, there are a few natural predators that eat them.
What eats kudzu bugs?
Because kudzu bugs emit a toxic odor after being eaten, they don’t have many natural predators.
However, there are some natural predators of kudzu bugs that have been identified by researchers. Francesca Stubbins, a graduate research assistant at the Edisto Research and Education Center, presented a nematode that basically killed off the kudzu bug by living in the digestive tract.
Mermithid nematodes will infect the kudzu bugs and kill them eventually.
They enter the bugs as small nematodes and will eat the kudzu bug from within. Eventually the nematode merger into the soil and lay eggs to repeat the process and once again infect kudzu bugs.
While there aren’t many natural kudzu bug predators, nematodes are still widely in research and not practical for everyday homeowners.
There’s also a fungus called Beauveria bassiana which is often found in South Carolina soybean fields.
This fungus can also kill off kudzu populations and is being researched for help control kudzu bugs.
Kudzu bug predators
There aren’t many natural predators that eat kudzu bugs that are accessible for common homeowners.
Other than using cattle, goats, and other livestock who eat kudzu plants (and thus also eating kudzu bugs in the process), there really aren’t any other predators that can be effectively utilized from my research.
Here are some predators that’ll eat kudzu bugs (via Oxford Academic):
- Big-eye bug (Geocoris punctipes)
- Minute pirate bug (Geocoris uliginosus)
- Spined soldier bug (Orius insidiosus)
- Lady beetle (Podisus maculiventris)
- Assassin bug (Hippodamia convergens)
- Spider (Zelus renardii)
- Spider (Oxyopes salticus)
- Exotic ant (Solenopsis invicta)
Manual removal by vacuum
If you have them in your home, you can get rid of them with a vacuum cleaner.
Never use your bare hands because if you squish them, the residue will burn and discolor your hands. Also, they can really damage your furniture, paint, or other valuables if you crush them against it. So be careful
Using a vacuum cleaner will suck them up safely without crushing them against anything (other than the vacuum bag).
This also works on kudzu bugs on your walls. Just use the extended hose on your vacuum (or buy one if you don’t have one).
Be careful when you suck them up on the walls- if you crush one, it’ll be a pain to clean up afterward.
How to get rid of kudzu bugs outside
If you have them outdoors, you’re best off using some preventive and control measures such as mowing down the plants they’re eating.
You can also prune or reduce the foliage of their chosen plant (typically a legume or kudzu) and the population will dwindle. If they have no food, they can’t sustain a population.
Set up traps
There are a ton of flying bug traps you can make yourself at home. The easiest type is to simply use a mason jar trap.
What you’ll need:
- Mason jar
- ¼ cup sugar
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- Saran wrap (cling film)
- Packing tape
- String or twine
- Knife or another pointed object
Here’s how to make it:
- Take the mason jar and remove the lid.
- Add the sugar and apple cider vinegar together. Stir the mixture until you get one color. It should look whitish-green.
- Cover the top with saran wrap.
- Use the packing tape and secure the wrap over the lid by taping around the jar.
- Poke many holes in the wrap using the knife, any sharp object (be careful, of course).
- Take the string or twine and secure it to the jar with another layer of tape. This is used for hanging purposes if you wish to hang it out outdoors.
How to use it:
Place or hang the trap where you see the kudzu bugs flying around.
They’ll be attracted to the scent and fly into the jar. Then, they’ll get stuck in the vinegar/sugar mixture and can’t get back out. Over time, this will catch many kudzu bugs and they’ll build up.
You’ll have to empty them out, wash the container, then start all over again. You can also just make another DIY trap if this one is too nasty for you.
Kill kudzu plants to remove the bugs
This is pretty obvious, but removing the kudzu plant itself will remove the kudzu bugs. Without the plants to feed off of, the kudzu population would diminish quickly.
Of course, if you’re sick of the kudzu bugs, remove the plant and you’ll be all good. Just like the pest, the plant is also difficult to remove and grows like a weed.
Be sure to completely remove the plant if you plan to do this.
You can get rid of kudzu plants by doing the following.
What kills kudzu naturally?
Using a lawnmower can kill kudzu vines, but sometimes can take a lot of manual labor.
However, if you use a mower to cut down the vines to ground level, you can reduce the number of bugs that live and feed on them. If you continue to do this over and over with a weekly mowing regiment, you can eventually kill off the plant.
After the kudzu plant is gone, then the kudzu bug will also be eradicated.
- Be sure to stick to a schedule and don’t skip a mowing.
- Use metal clippers to finish off any plant material.
- Dispose of any trimming in secure containers, compost, or burn them safely.
This approach should only be done after you mow down the plant since it’s relatively laborious. Use garden gloves and simply pull out the kudzu plant and dispose of them in a secure container.
You can do this by hand as long as you’re protected because you don’t want to accidentally squish a kudzu bug to avoid skin burns.
The root crown is at the very bottom and should have buds sprouting. You need to remove this to kill the plant.
For kudzu vines that are climbing trees, walls, other plants, fencing, or even trellises, cut them off and remove them manually or using garden shears.
You can apply some natural herbicide or plant killer directly onto roots that you can’t untangle and remove.
- You can also use pickaxe or shovel to remove the kudzu root crown.
- Shears will be helpful for cutting roots.
- Completely remove the kudzu crown or else the crown will continue to produce foliage.
- Consider using natural plant killer in the soil to kill off any remaining plant.
- You can also use livestock, such as goat or cattle, which will naturally eat kudzu and eventually kill the plant.
Other ways to kill kudzu
Will Clorox kill kudzu?
Clorox has long been an effective DIY home remedy for killing off kudzu.
You can apply Clorox (or just plain bleach) to the root crown or soil where kudzu roots are growing.
This will effectively kill the kudzu and any kudzu bugs that happen to come into contact with the bleach.
Here’s a video that demonstrates the process (Via Pests, Weeds, and Problems):
There are dozens of commercial kudzu killer herbicides you can buy at any hardware store.
Do your research and choose an effective one. Stick with organic when possible so it’s safer for your pets and children (and yourself).
Then move to natural if an organic herbicide isn’t possible.
Only use synthetic when you have to. Use the plant killer as directed and you should be able to kill off any remaining kudzu, which will then eliminate the rest of the bugs.
Look for herbicides with any of these chemicals for effectiveness:
- Pyrethroid-based killers
Note that these are not environmentally-friendly solutions, so avoid if possible.
Can kudzu vines be controlled?
Yes. Kudzu is just like a weed that needs regular maintenance to keep it from growing wild.
If you prune and mow it on a schedule, kudzu can be controlled just like any other plant.
However, if you want to get rid of the bugs that live on kudzu, you’ll want to completely get rid of the kudzu plant.
It’s all a matter of sticking to a schedule and not getting lazy. If you do, then the vines will grow like crazy, which means more food for the bugs, which means a ton of kudzu bugs all over your home!
How to prevent kudzu bugs
After you get rid of your infestation, or if you’re trying to just prevent one in the first place, here are some handy tips you can utilize to prevent kudzu bugs.
Practice basic maintenance
This is probably obvious, but you’ll want to protect and secure your home from entry.
During the winter, kudzu bugs will be hiding within homes and natural areas outdoors. You want to prevent them from ever getting into your home in the first place.
This means you have to take a look around your home outdoors and really fix up your house:
- Seal up cracks and crevices in your foundation
- Seal up any gaps and openings between your doors, patio doors, windows, and even your chimney.
- Repair any broken shingles, tiles, foundation cracks, or other entryways.
- Fix damaged screening for your doors, windows, and patio doors.
- Caulk up gaps between your pipes, cables, and utility lines.
Not to mention keeping your home maintained will also prevent other overwintering bugs from getting into your home, such as boxelder bugs, stink bugs, and even cockroaches (which aren’t overwintering).
Keep your plants under control
If you have soybean or kudzu vines, keep them under control at all times. Never let them overgrow. Use basic maintenance or remove them entirely.
Without a reliable food source, the kudzu bugs won’t be able to sustain a large, scary population in the first place. They may not even settle in your yard because there’s no food source for them to breed.
Use natural repellents
If you must keep plants around that they’re eating, use natural repellents around them.
Consider spraying some essential oils (covered earlier) as a first-line defense against them. This may prevent them from nesting in your area.
Don’t bring them indoors
Check your patio screens and doors before you go outdoors.
Check yourself before you come back in. For those with pets like dogs or cats, be careful of their pet doors and hitchhikers on your pets.
Once they get into your home, they’re a nuisance. So be sure to not let them indoors in the first place, or else vacuum them up in case one slips through the cracks!
Continue to monitor for infestations
Don’t get lazy and let up your control. You’ll want to always inspect and watch out for possible kudzu bugs before they take over.
Remember, once they find a suitable area to overwinter, they’ll come out in huge numbers.
You’ll want to look for the signs of a kudzu bug infestation (covered earlier in this guide) to prevent them in the first place. If you start to notice some bugs, take preventive measures before they nest!
Did you get rid of your kudzu problem?
That’s about it!
With persistence and an urge to free your home or garden of these stinky pests, you should be able to at least significantly reduce the kudzu bug population.
The key is to constantly exercise removal techniques. Use DIY repellents.
And keep a clean and tidy garden with the plants in check. With time, the population will dwindle and you’ll be dealing with a lot fewer bugs overall.
If you have any questions, feel free to post a comment below and I’ll get back to you ASAP. Or if you’ve dealt with these bugs before, share your words of wisdom.
And if you found this DIY pest control guide to be helpful in controlling your kudzu bugs, let me know.
Thanks for reading.
Currently an active researcher in the pest control industry for the past 8 years- with a focus on using natural and organic methods to eliminate pest problems.
I share handy DIY pest techniques I come across here to help out others (and possibly save them from a mental breakdown).
Fight nature with nature.