Ask someone to name Georgia’s most prized export and you’ll get varied responses.
Peaches, pecans, peanuts (we like P’s) and exotic dancers are among our many claims to fame.
But what about plataspids? Bean plataspids to be precise.
Sounds yummy, but you’d best not eat them. After all, it’s what THEY eat that makes them special — the tiny insects devour kudzu, the South’s least favorite plant.
The Athens Banner-Herald reports the bugs, first found in Georgia near Athens, have spread to almost all of Georgia, South Carolina, a big chunk of North Carolina and four Alabama counties.
You can’t blame them for avoiding Mississippi.
The bugs fly high, so recent winds from Hurricane Irene may have shot the little guys clear up to Canada, where, believe it or not, kudzu grows.
Researchers in Athens say the insects reduce the amount of kudzu foliage by a third in test plots. They also dine on another pesky plant, Wisteria, which has the good manners to at least be pretty when blooming.
The news isn’t all good: Other members of the legume family considered useful (and profitable) — peanuts and soybeans — are also targeted by the tiny winged beasts.
Kudzu — which can grow a foot a day — became widespread in the ’30s and ’40s when the U.S. government planted it far and wide to reduce soil erosion. It’s taken over vast swaths since — spreading at the rate of 150,000 acres per year.
Bean plataspids, unlike struggling artists, will never go hungry.