Marianna- Panhandle farmers have fought the encroachment of kudzu grass for a quite some time. But, for the past four years they've also had to pay attention to one of it's residents, the Asian Kudzu bug. It's a member of the stink bug family and is a threat to soybean crops.
The bug showed up in Georgia back in 2009 and has been making it's way toward North Florida fields ever since.
"They are in large numbers, so when you see a swarm of them it's pretty alarming" said Jackson County Extension Director. Doug Mayo.
Mayo said no one was really sure how the pests got here and so far there were no reports of any found in Jackson County. But, neighboring counties haven't been so lucky.
Mayo told us, "Kudzu bugs have been found in Geneva County, Houston County, Seminole County- those are all around us."
The bugs suck the nutrients out of the soybean stalks leaving the crop in drought like conditions. Studies have show they won't knock out an entire field, but they have done serious damage when left untreated. And treatment, of course, meant increased costs. Mayo told us, "Any time you have to fire up the tractor and spray it adds cost."
The pests can't be prevented, but Mayo offered suggestions to minimize damage.
"Wait until there are bugs in your field, they have laid one round of eggs and the nymphs hatch out. So then, when you treat you get one whole generation" he said.
Mayo told us he didn't expect the bugs to hit the Panhandle area until next season, but said it was not a bad idea to start checking soybean crops now.