Thursday, October 22, 2009
Lady Bug, Lady Bug... Fly to Someone Else’s Home!
Good week for encounters with lady bugs… the Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle, Harmonia axyridis , to be exact. On Tuesday, I noticed them as they flew to my arms near a sunny orchard. On Wednesday, the local TV station called to get the story on “swarming” lady beetles invading homes. Sure enough, a Perkasie home had thousands of beetles on the sunny south side of the house. Warm days, following cool nights, (light frost in Perkasie Monday)seems to inspire them to seek overwintering quarters.
Most of us are familiar with the native, red beetle with black spots that probably inspired that children’s ditty. I can’t locate the literary reference. (Help someone!). Almost everyone looks fondly on the red lady bug and gardeners know that they are beneficial in the garden. They eat aphids and other destructive insects.
But the bug of the week is a relatively recent introduction. Literally. The multi-colored Asian Lady Beetle was purposely introduced to the USA as a beneficial insect, designed to apply some biological pressure to destructive, introduced pests. In Pennsylvania, introductions were made in the 1970s and 80’s. They’re good bugs…. tell that to folks who have thousands in their homes.
I feel bad for entomophobic (insect fearing) people. There are so many insects in the world. More than a million species. Books say that there are more species of insects than all other animal species, combined. Most of them are pretty and interesting. A few are not appreciated by people because they destroy crops, sting or carry disease. A few are appreciated for their beauty (butterflies) or utility (honey bees). But insects are just “bugs” to most people and for some reason are not loved. All have a role to play in the grand scheme of things, I suppose. So give a bug a break. Play a game of finding their names and then see what they are all about. (How about it, Amy?) You might be pleasantly surprised.
So, back to the bug of the week. Good bug… eats aphids and scale insects that harm plants. Bad bug,… gets in the house because it is seeking overwintering quarters in you warm home. In their native habitat (Asia) they use warm cliff faces as overwintering quarters. The sunny south side of our houses must seem similar.
The good news is that they are not harmful to people (minor exceptions) or our structures; they do not reproduce inside our homes. Seal up cracks and crevices to prevent their entry, just as you would do to prevent invasions of Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs or Box Elder Bugs. Insecticides are not usually effective. Once inside, a vacuum cleaner, fitted with a stocking to collect them works well. Some folks are so bug loving they save them and release them next spring. See this for details. Now that’s loving a bug!
Thanks to Iowa State University for the bug pic. There are loads of articles on this insect if you want to search the web. Stick to .edu sites for the best info.