A parasitoid wasp controls kudzu bug populations in its native Asia. University of Georgia entomologist Michael Toews hopes those wasps will one day reduce the kudzu bug’s presence in the United States.“(Finding a predator) is exactly what we need to do for long-term suppression,” said Toews, a researcher with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “The problem is you can’t just go collect a bug from another land and release it. You have to study all of its non-target effects. Sometimes you can create more problems than you’re solving when you release a new species in a foreign land.”U.S. Department of Agriculture and UGA entomologists are studying the wasp to see if it will parasitize other insects native to the U.S.When kudzu bugs arrived in the U.S. in 2009, north Georgia soybean growers quickly realized the bug had an appetite for more than just kudzu. If untreated, kudzu bug damage can result in soybean yield losses ranging from 20-60 percent, according to UGA entomologist Phillip Roberts. Kudzu bugs suck on the main stem and leaf of soybean plants, which weakens and stresses the plant.“This is a major production challenge for us because this invasive insect pest has had no natural controls in the United States. This insect is native to Asia, China and Japan, specifically,” Toews said. “In those lands, there are parasitoid wasps that manage these populations. In fact, they’re not considered crop pests in their native land. But when it was introduced into North America and the Western Hemisphere, the parasitoid did not come with it, so that bug has been able to expand very, very rapidly.”The wasp attacks kudzu bug eggs and kills the larvae before they hatch. The uncertainty surrounding the wasps’ potential impact in North America has Toews and fellow entomologists concerned.“Entomologists, stakeholders and growers are all hoping that this little parasitoid is going to help us manage our kudzu bug populations,” Toews said. “ We’re all hopeful that it’s going to happen, but this is a new land (for the wasp), and we don’t really know if the same amount of control will be exerted as in its native area,” Toews said.In 2012, researchers applied for the necessary USDA permit to release the wasp. Scientists must first demonstrate new pests are safe and do not alter the ecosystem before they are released. This usually takes a couple of years, but the parasitoid wasp was found in Georgia and Alabama last summer. Toews calls the findings accidental and is uncertain how the wasp made it to the U.S. Genetic testing shows the newly detected wasp population is different than the strain being examined under quarantine. Research teams throughout the Southeast are monitoring the potential spread of the parasitoid wasp during this year’s growing season.Two grants to study kudzu bug researchUGA scientists are using two new grants from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture to find new ways to eliminate the kudzu bug’s impact in the U.S.One grant will be used to look at different thresholds for reducing the pest in the field with the hope of eliminating all economic damage with a single pesticide spray. The scientists are examining various factors, including the timing of pesticide sprays and what to use as a benchmark for insecticide application (stage of crop, time of year, foliage density or distribution of the bug in the field).The second grant will fund a study of the biology and ecology of kudzu bugs in farm settings. After overwintering in the bark of pine trees, kudzu bugs flock to developing kudzu where the first generation of kudzu bugs develop. When they mature, the bugs seek out soybean fields. Toews marks the bugs in kudzu using a fluorescent powder and then observes when, where and why the bugs move to soybean fields. Traps are strategically placed in soybean fields to monitor the kudzu bugs. When a marked bug arrives at the soybean field, Toews can determine when and where the bug was marked and how far it flew. Through this process, Toews is able to study the bugs’ capacity for flight, their differences in reproducing on different host plants and how likely they are to disperse at different times of the year.For more information about the kudzu bug, see kudzubug.org.
As I gear up for a trip to Salt Lake City to cover USC’s matchup against the Utes, I can’t help but have an overwhelming feeling of foreboding. I can easily see this game being a combination of two of my least favorite aspects of sports: blowouts and injuries. The loss of senior linebacker Porter Gustin and the possibility of not having senior linebacker Cameron Smith, both due to injury, are not only a significant loss from both a leadership and talent perspective, but also an injustice to the game of football. Both players are captains who have a magnificent knowledge of the game and have aided some of the younger guys on the squad. They have been one of the primary reasons USC’s defense is so solid, not to mention the fact that Gustin has seven sacks, while the rest of the team combined have six. Moreover, USC’s defense has kept the team in countless games this season. USC could have beaten Stanford if the offense managed to score points; Arizona could have been a loss if the Trojans didn’t make several key defensive stops and Washington State was a field goal away from handing the Trojans a key Pac-12 defeat. The offense is very fortunate to have a defense that busts its butts to keep the team in the game. From the other side: If you are Utah, do you want to beat a Trojan team missing two of its best players? No. Sports fans should want to see the best competition from both sides go head-to-head and battle it out to claim the top of the Pac-12 South, but unfortunately I don’t think we are going to see that this weekend. The lack of key defensive players this week will most likely lead to USC’s demise.I’ve said this in many columns this year: The USC offense has the talent; it just needs to pull it all together. The Trojans need to get the running and passing game going at the same time. The offense looked extremely dominant in the first half against Colorado; several deep passes from freshman quarterback JT Daniels reconciled his early turnover troubles and led to a 21-point half. However, many people overlook the fact that USC posted a fat zero in the rushing yards column in the first 30 minutes. That cannot happen, especially not when a team has a trio of running backs who have shown they know how to be dominant.Doubling down, Utah is second in defensive rankings, allowing an average of just 74.8 rushing yards per game. Fortunately for USC, Daniels and his wide receivers should be able to find some long gains on deep passes against the Utes. Regardless, the one dimensional offensive approach will likely not be enough to best Utah, especially in Salt Lake City.I am not blaming the offense but commending the defense. The offense is young and inexperienced; consistency shouldn’t be expected. But if the Trojans want to win this weekend, they will have to pull something together. If the Trojans want to hold a close matchup in this game, the offense needs to figure it out now. I would love to see a shootout. I would love to see the Trojans and the Utes take turns demonstrating fantastic offensive drives, but right now I don’t see that happening. With USC’s losses, it doesn’t look like the defense will be able to hold the incohesive offense in the game. That is why I’m projecting a blowout in favor of the Utes. This game is crucial in determining the remainder of the season. USC is likely to run the table in its final Pac-12 games, even without Gustin. In the remaining games, there is no conference competition that should scare USC. A win in Utah will almost certainly allow USC to clinch a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game. As head coach Clay Helton always says, “USC can control its own destiny.” Sam Arslanian is a sophomore majoring in journalism. He is also the sports editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “Extra Innings,” runs Fridays.