GUEST COLUMN: Lady Beetles cause problems in the fall

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By Jeneen Wiche

It is that time of the year again: the attack of the lady beetles. Usually they sneak their way into our homes before now but the mild weather has kept them at bay. The chill is here so people are asking, “what do I do about all the lady bugs in my house.”

Well, the short answer is seal up the house well and get out the vacuum cleaner.

The Asian lad beetle is looking for some warmth and protection from approaching winter weather.

It has been mild this year so the invasion has come late; and the invader is the copper-colored Asian lady beetle. They are hard to ignore because large numbers collect on the sides of our homes, or worse yet, inside our homes. They appear copper-colored and exhibit a great deal of variation within the species. Sometimes they appear with no spots, a few spots or many spots.

Usually they are a copper or burnt orange color but they can appear black or red. Do not be surprised or confused by these variations.

In the late 1970’s USDA Agricultural Research scientists introduced the Asian lady beetle to the United States as a biological control against pear psylla and other soft-bodied insects.

The Asian lady beetle, harmonia axyridis, is a voracious eater, just like our native lady beetle, but they have different wintering habits.

The Asian lady beetle is native to Japan and Korea where they winter over in cliffs in order to stay warm and protected from inclement weather. In the United States, in the absence of cliffs, the lady beetles flock to vertical structures, often light-colored, and always south or southwest facing. These vertical structures are usually our homes!

If there are cracks, crevices are any point of entry, the lady beetles find their way indoors collecting on walls and ceilings. As numbers increase, so does the desire to get rid of them but it is somewhat problematic.

Lady beetles are beneficial insects eating other nuisance insects; so, killing them is environmentally irresponsible. However, most people do not want lady beetles in their house all winter long.

Here are the options for control. Number one in beetle-proofing your home is to seal up crevices, install weather stripping around doors and check for any other entry point.

This will not only eliminate the number of insects that come in, it will also reduce your utility bills in both summer and winter.

Removing those beetles that have already made their way inside is best done with a broom or a vacuum.

I know that it is asking nearly too much, but instead of killing them try vacuuming them up and releasing them a good distance from your home.

If you do crush them, be ready for the stinky smell they will emit. And, don’t forget to empty the vacuum bag if you vacuum dead ones up. The problem with using chemical sprays is that it will only kill those insects that it comes in contact with and likely there are more beetles in unseen places. If you fumigate and kill those that are unseen, then other insects that feed on the carcasses may be attracted to your home as a result.

Lady beetles feed on soft-bodied insects and will not do any structural damage to your home but those that may feed on them can.

They are just hibernating in your home and will not bite (although some have insisted otherwise), sting, spread disease, infest your food or eat your clothing…they are just annoying.

If you do choose to use chemicals do so in late September when you notice them on exterior surfaces before they enter the home.