While experts already know how the kudzu bug spends its summers – destroying crops by munching on kudzu vines and other hosts, including soybeans – researchers want to know more about how these insects spend their winter.
That’s the focus of two studies funded by the Maryland Soybean Board (MSB) this summer. The checkoff board granted more than $200,000 to support 16 research projects for the benefit of soybean farmers.
University of Maryland researcher Jessica Grant wants to know just how cold it needs to be in order to kill a resident population of kudzu bugs.
Previously, Grant has performed observations of the number of days to hatch, percent which survive, days to adulthood, average age per female, and longevity of the insects in four different controlled temperature regimens. She also looked at which point the bugs will actually freeze and die, trying to correlate that with what they would experience in the field.
The primary issue lies in the fact that kudzu bugs overwinter in leaf litter which serves as an insulating microhabitat for the insects. Thanks to funding from MSB, Grant will continue research on degree-day development and overwintering in microhabitats, as well as validate a model of phenology and share her results with growers and media alike.
At the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Simon Zebelo also is looking at kudzu bugs. His research is focused on developing alternative practices for the management of populations of kudzu bug.
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By studying the behavior and habits of kudzu bugs, Zebelo hopes to develop a strategy that reduces or eliminates pesticide use that may adversely affect non-target insect populations. He knows that kudzu bugs, unlike other stink bugs, have a low tendency to move from a suitable host and that they tend to aggregate and colonize on field margins, due to their social tendencies.
The other 14 research projects are examining issues ranging from the development of a new fish food to control of Palmer Amaranth to a study of Sulphur and whether its use might improve both the quality and yield of soybeans.
The Maryland Soybean Board administers soybean checkoff funds for soybean research, marketing and education programs in the state. One-half of the checkoff funds stay in Maryland for programs; the other half is sent to the United Soybean Board.