Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Next Plague?

LAST year we noticed a great number of insects we hadn't seen before in the park. Little green/brown bugs, they looked a little like ladybirds but had a distinct triangular shape, the head much narrower than the tail end. They congregated in great numbers on the kudzu, were easy to pick up, flew away just as easily and didn't smell too good when squashed (accidently). It was Megacopta cribraria, otherwise known as the "kudzu beetle".

Alexander was delighted to discover them today in our garden too, on wisteria, which prompted me to research them. This little bug was first seen in the US, or in the Western hemisphere at all, in October 2009. It was discovered right here in nine counties in north Georgia and in a year had spread to over 60 counties. Now Megacopta is also a resident of North Carolina and South Carolina. The rapid spread is particularly worrisome to agriculture, since the bugs are voracious eaters not only of kudzu (which grows equally fast and does not seem to be unduly damaged by the pest) but other legumes too - especially soy beans.

Soy being, in my opinion, one of the most heinous of all crops in terms of contribution to the proliferation of cheap processed "foods", I had a fleeting thought that this little beetle army might be on a divine mission to save us from ourselves...

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