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The kudzu eaters. November 3, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in critters, gardening, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood are not fans of kudzu. Or at least, not fans of kudzu, Southern-style. We understand and appreciate that kudzu (aka kuzu), an Asian native plant, is valued in its homeland, especially Japan, as a useful crop. In Japan, every part of the plant is used: the massive roots (which can weigh 300 pounds) for medicine, the leaves and shoots as greens, the stems for baskets, the aboveground parts for handmade paper.

Here in the U.S., we’re not so lucky. Like so many invasive pests, kudzu was deliberately introduced here by Depression-era do-gooders thinking its rapid spread would help control erosion. Thanks, morons. We hope your graves have been blanketed with kudzu along with the endless mile upon mile of Southern landscape. Hillsides, forests, trees, cars, yards, buildings, buried beneath a suffocating mass of advancing kudzu: To drive through the South is to see a nightmare landscape, a horror story, in which everything has been swallowed up by this aggressively spreading vine, which can grow a foot a day and is impervious to every form of control.

OFB and Silence, who are from the South, practically burst into tears every time we drive down and see what kudzu has done to our homeland. So we perked up considerably upon seeing an article in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal, “Bug Battle: An Invasive Plant Now Faces Its Own Attacker.” (Check it out at www.WSJ.com.)

The illustration looks like a beetle to us, but the Wall Street Journal describes the dark green Megacopta cribraria as insects and bugs, not beetles. The insects first arrived in the U.S. as stowaways on a flight to Atlanta in 2009, and have spread from North Carolina to Alabama, prime kudzu country. Like kudzu itself, they came from Japan. Here in the U.S., they’re apparently known as kudzu bugs or “killer kudzu bugs.”

Sound like a miracle? Too good to be true? Well, sadly, yes. The Asian bug loves kudzu, but also eats another Asian import, soybeans. And since soybeans are a major crop across much of the U.S. (including up here in our own scenic PA), a soybean-eating bug is a threat to agriculture. USDA scientists are already hard at work trying to find natural controls.

Our friend Ben and Silence have a dream scenario: The bugs eat the kudzu. Once they’ve eliminated it, the USDA folks unleash controls that stop the bugs in their tracks before they get to the soybeans. End of story, happy ending. Likely? Uh-huh.

We can hope, of course. But even more important, we can hope that this latest imported disaster will stop folks like the ones who imported kudzu, multiflora rose, prickly pear, starlings, European house sparrows, water hyacinths, carp, zebra mussels, purple loosestrife, ornamental grasses, knotweed, and etc. etc. to become a nightmare here on our shores.

Such good intentions, such disastrous, ignorant, ecologically horrific results. Stop, please stop. Let Mother Nature spread her bounty, and controls, as she, not we, see fit.

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