Throughout the winter of 2006 a small scale insect was noted on woody kudzu vines that ran along the ground and were kept moist by a covering of dead leaves. Some older stems were almost white with colonies of this organism. Specimens were taken to the Department of Entomology, Soils, and Plant Sciences at Clemson University where it was identified by Ph.D. student Ian Stocks as white peach scale (Pseudaulacaspis pentagona). Vines infected with white peach scale have normal growth the first year but have a reduction in wood production in subsequent years. As all leaves are produced on stems that are less than a year old, food production for the plant as a whole should not be effected.
The significance of this finding might not lie in the kudzu patch but in the negative impact the scale might have on peaches and other plants that it parasitizes. Peach scale has been found on 115 different plant species from 55 families. According to Dr. Patricia A. Layton, head of the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources at Clemson University, this scale has caused the complete demise of peach trees in some areas. She also states that it is the chief pest of peaches in much of the world.
This pest appears to be quite common in mature kudzu patches throughout our area of South Carolina. The over-wintering of white peach scale in mature patches of kudzu could seriously impact the growing of peaches throughout the southeast. This is but another example of a noxious weedy species creating negative impacts far greater than can be measured by adding up the number of acres of land it degrades.