Pest Control - Bug invasion poses risks to Georgia crops

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Pest Control - Bug invasion poses risks to Georgia crops


Kate Brumback, Associated Press

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Researchers recently found an insect in north Georgia that has never before been reported in the Western Hemisphere - and its arrival could be both a blessing and a curse.

Some might celebrate the arrival of the kudzu-munching bug, which could help control the invasive vine that drapes much of the South. However, the bug also feasts on valuable crops like soybeans and other legumes.

As of Nov. 12, the insect was reported in nine north Georgia counties, mostly on homes and other buildings with nearby kudzu patches. Experts aren't sure yet how fast or wide the bug will spread or how damaging it might be to crops.

"I think in time it's going to spread significantly," said Dan Suiter, an associate professor of entomology at the University of Georgia's Griffin campus. "But only time will tell."

Suiter and Lisa Ames, director of the university's Homeowner Insect and Weed Diagnostics Lab, first received specimens of the bug from pest-control companies and county agricultural officials in mid-October. Neither had ever seen it before and both initially misidentified it.

Just before Halloween, Dow AgroScience field researcher Joe Eger visited the University of Georgia campus, and Suiter happened to show him a specimen. That turned out to be a lucky break.

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