Invasive plants VS Invader bugs. The battle has begun.
For 50 years, farmers, scientists, and homeowners have looked for a way to get rid of kudzu. The invasive plant native to Japan grows at such an astounding rate that people in the southern U.S. joke about closing their windows at night to keep it out of the house. Another invasive species should teach us to be careful what we wish for. Megacopta cribraria, an insect that hitched a ride to Atlanta on a plane from Asia in 2009, eats kudzu. The kudzu bug could eat away a third of the kudzu covering several states within a decade…
“I’m all for it,” says Keith Brouillard, owner of Raleigh, N.C.’s Carolina Forestry, a consulting group that helps manage timber land for private owners. “Kudzu is a nuisance and almost impossible to get rid of.” The vine is virtually impervious to herbicides, chain saws and even fire. Its roots can weigh 300 pounds and run 12 feet deep.
But the bug is also chewing up soybean stalks, reducing some yields recently by as much as a quarter, according to entomologists at the University of Georgia.
“Disappearing kudzu is a cultural problem,” says John Shelton Reed, a sociologist and essayist on Southern life. “But disappearing soybeans is an economic problem.”
Researchers are looking for ways to protect soybean crops from Megacopta cribrariawhile still searching for a species that will kill kudzu and leave crops alone.