Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Yesterday, I gave the window on my back door a much-needed cleaning.  As I stepped back to admire the sparkle, an ominous buzzing overhead drew my attention.  A small congregation of ladybugs was milling about on my ceiling, eyeing the desirable piece of real estate I just wiped down.  Which means that in 48 hours, my fresh Windex job will be covered in ladybug poop.  Not being a full-blown entomologist, I’m not exactly sure that’s what the little black specks are, but I’m drawing some reasonable conclusions.  Yes, folks, it’s ladybug (technically, Asian Ladybeetle) season.  Once John Deere and International Harvester are done working the local bean field over, ladybugs will come a-looking for greener pastures.  Much like the Midwestern senior population, which heads to the sunny shores of the Gulf, Asian Ladybeetles are looking for a warmer climate to overwinter.  And they’ve found it here, courtesy of my furnace and insulation.  I wonder if they talk about Irwin like we talk about Puerto Vallarta.  If so, that’d almost be cool. 

Asian Ladybeetle eyeing my sparkly window.
Some ladybugs have good manners.  Some do not.  Asian ladybeetles fall into the latter of the two groups.  They are not the sweet little blips of rosy pink polka-dots we commonly refer to as ‘ladybugs’.  Asian ladybeetles are larger, generally orange in color and invasive.  Whereas the rosy ladybugs seem content to overwinter in my herb garden (they just love my lemon balm) Asian Ladybeetles barge into my home with nary an invitation.  To add to their congeniality, they bite.  The good news is they don’t eat your food, your wood or your clothes, like some household invaders.  The bad news is, they nibble on us.  Now, we’re not talking about a bee sting or a mosquito bite here.  This is a small ‘nip’ from the beetle, with no venom involved.  But even a little nibble is one too many for me.  I’ll pass, thanks!  In spite of all their bad behavior, they are considered beneficial insects.  They feast on aphids (they can consume 5,000 in their lifetime), and their ravenous appetite for these minute little leaf-eaters got them a first-class boat ride to the United States of America.  Yup.  We did this to ourselves. 

Ladybugs are attracted to warm, light-colored surfaces.  They find cracks and crevices and waltz through them like Fred Astaire.  Hmmmm.  I’m beginning to realize why my white, west-facing, soybean-surrounded, hundred-year-old farmhouse is a beacon for them.  If our abundant cracks and crevices weren’t obvious enough, my three kids leave the front door gaping at intervals throughout the day.  No wonder they flock to us.  We might as well hang up a “Welcome Ladybeetles” sign. 

Once the beetles are in, you will want them out.  You need to know a few things about ladybug removal before you ever attempt it. 

1.  Prepare yourself for disappointment.  For every beetle you remove, two will take its place.  As the mother of a third grader, I smell some fun word problems brewing: Billy removed 25 Asian Ladybeetles from his living room.  How many Ladybeetles does Billy have now?  Billy will have 50 by the end of the day.  Go ahead, test me on this.  It’s true.  

2.  You should never, ever smoosh a ladybug.  The resulting odor is enough to discourage this violence, but the mix of goo and broken-up bug parts is very difficult to remove and just as annoying as the living ladybugs, if not more so.  Flyswatters are for flies.  Dyson, Hoover and Eureka are for ladybugs. 

3.  There are sprays and traps formulated to exile Asian ladybeetles.  Although designed for indoor use, the traps are repulsively large and I’m guessing they will not blend in with your décor.  But if you have an adolescent boy that likes to put things together, it could be a good project for them.  Several DIY links are available at http://www.walterreeves.com/insects-and-animals/lady-beetle-ladybug-traps.  If you decide to spray, be sure to check the chemical’s safety.  Ladybeetles may be annoying, but poisoning yourself would be more so. 

4.  Consider some preventative suggestions:  Paint your house a darker color.  Fill in all the cracks and crevices (and lower your energy bills!).  Plant trees on the south and west side of your home, thereby lowering the desirability of your home to beetles.  While each of these is a functional suggestion, they require an inordinate amount of time and money, and none of these preventatives are guaranteed to eliminate the problem completely. 

5.  If you should find yourself with a container of exiled ladybugs, environmentalists recommend that you dump them outside, where they will survive and continue being beneficial.  (If you end up dumping them in the garbage can, rest assured, you’re not alone.)  One environmentalist recommended storing them in a moist sack in the refrigerator until spring returns, and THEN releasing them into the great outdoors.  I’m sorry, but that is going a bit TOO far.  No bug is going to take up precious space where a jar of salsa could be sitting. 


Lyn said...

Ladybugs that bite? And invade your house? And here I thought that Australia was the home of all the horror animals.

Design to Grow said...

Hey Lyn, fill me in on those horror animals: my hubbie may be headed in your direction this summer. Should I pack heavy-duty repellant? : )

Lyn said...

Is there such a thing as snake repellant?
Mollie, I don't want to say any more, you'll just worry...

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