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.


Anonymous said...

Greetings from Chi town to our ladybug loving cousin in Buck's County. We have these same Lady Beetles here too---they seem to be inside our homes (I guess they are talented at finding warm places) but haven't proven to be pesty. Didn't know you had a blog but will follow from now on. Are you all having any trouble with the Emerald Ash borer out east? We are experiencing the start of some invasion here and I am about to have my backyard ash tree treated by a private service here. I sure don't want to lose this lovely and shade providing tree. What can you tell me about this treatment? How long does it last and how effective is it????? Thanks Scott. Ann F.

Scott Guiser said...

Cousin Ann! Great to here from you.
Emeral Ash Borer are in PA, moveing east, but only as far as North 5th Street, Mifflintown so far... actual Mifflin County.
Yes there are treatments for emerald ash borer. Here is a link to Illinois EAB site
PA has a site too, as do all infested states, but I noted that the Illinios site had Utube content and the speakers have that funny accent that you will understand and realte to.
Bottom line, yes there are effective treatments. Be sure that the arbortist you choose is an ISA (International Society of Arboriculture) certified arborist. You can read lots more on the web site.
Great to hear from you. I'll send more in a personal email.

Maine-ah Mom-ah said...

After moving into my old home in Maine, this has been a total nightmare. I was a budding entomologist as a kid (I loved “playing” with bugs) and I respected bugs’ roles in nature. So I immediately scooped up the “LADYBUGS” I saw in my window and cooed at them like they were the best things ever as they sat in my hands. Then I sniffed. Funny – I didn’t remember ladybugs smelling like that as a kid (I wouldn’t have played with them so much) (I AM a girl, after all). What I don’t see mentioned much about these imposters is the absolutely pungent and nauseating odor these faux ladybugs give off even if casually brushed from a tabletop, or if they land on you, etc. Multiply them by millions (so it seems) and I am a total neurotic! I have to cover all my food – even if for a second – to make sure they don’t land in it and render it inedible from their flatulence in the process of fishing them out. They land in food, in my clothing, between pages of books, in my soapy dishwater, crunch underfoot on the floor – and I am completely disgusted by this and the odor and the staining… Though I love bugs, I have a cleanliness law where they don’t factor in…so I relocate them outside – spiders, flies, et al. But these guys – God help me – I vacuum up and smother in a bag. I’m pregnant now, and have whole days where I can’t eat because these bugs are everywhere and I’m CONSTANTLY nauseated because I am confined to my house and I can’t escape them anywhere. The odor, the crunching under foot… They walk on my clean dishes, sour my dishwater… I can’t imagine them crawling all over my poor baby in its’ crib – “tooting”, even worse, being ingested. Please help. You may be wondering, why am I seeing them in the middle of winter? Well, here in Maine we had a few days of near 50 degree weather…so surprise! they’re everywhere and say hello to my permanent morning sickness. I know about filling crevices (we have a 100+ year old house so it is hard to be 100% thorough) and it’s white so we’ll be painting it dark red this summer, but any advice as to natural-based pesticides that won’t kill everything else – whether homemade or purchased or hired through a service – will be greatly appreciated and a Godsend. Thank you so very much for you time, help and “shoulder” to vent on!!!

Scott Guiser said...

Dear "Going Buggy Maine"
Project for next summer.... Seal as many cracks as possible. I know this can be a challenge but it is the only measure I know that will prevent home invasion. Use a caulking gun befeor painting. Focus on window areas.