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Entomologists studying wasps to combat kudzu bugs | News

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Entomologists studying wasps to combat kudzu bugs

ATLANTA - The answer to Georgia's nasty kudzu bug problem may be a dust spec sized wasp from Asia.

RELATED: Kudzu bug invasion has homeowners looking for answers

Homeowners all over metro-Atlanta are horrified by the swarm of ladybug-looking pests that are swarming out of Georgia's kudzu patches. They cover the outside of homes, attach themselves to your shirt, and are even responsible for destroying some of the state's soybean crop.

Entomologists with the University of Georgia are part of a study that may lead to the introduction of the Scelionib wasp from Asia, a natural enemy of the kudzu bug.

"It won't eradicate the kudzu bug," said John Ruberson, a University of Georgia entomologist in Tifton. "If we can reduce them 75, 80, 90-percent, we would be happy."

Kudzu bugs were first discovered in Georgia in 2009. At that time, they were in only a handful of Georgia counties. Now, they're practically everywhere, as well as in all of South Carolina and most of North Carolina.

Ruberson is working with a lab in Mississippi to see observe how the wasp works. Entomologists want to make sure if the wasp is released into the kudzu fields of Georgia it doesn't harm any beneficial insects.

"So far the wasp looks great," said Ruberson. "it has shown no interest in anything except those kudzu bug eggs."

The Asian wasp lays its egg into the egg of the kudzu bug. The wasp that is born then destroys the unborn bug.

"What we're trying to do is put a natural enemy out in the field that will reduce the populations of kudzu bugs, hopefully make them manageable and much less noxious."

Scientists also have to find out if the wasp will survive in Georgia's climate.

Releasing the wasps in Georgia will require approval from the USDA and EPA. The soonest that could happen would be next spring.

"If it establishes and does its job, we'll probably see it start to help us here in Georgia within about two years," said Ruberson. "On a wider scale, it will take a little longer."