If I Find One More
Ladybug in the House
by Jean Muehlfelt
What has been known as a very beneficial insect in the garden is now considered a plague throughout many parts of the United States. Did you seen any ladybugs this fall crawling up the inside walls of your house?
The ladybug, or more technically known as the lady beetle, has its name traced back to the Middle Ages. They were known back then as the "Beetle of
Our Lady". They were dedicated to the Virgin Mary because it was thought to have come from heaven to save crops. Today, in many parts of the world, the
ladybug is believed to signal a bountiful harvest, good weather, or even good luck. In Europe, the insect is known as the "ladybird". In Ohio, the ladybug became the official state insect in 1975.
In recent years, the ladybug has been imported into the U.S. and sold to us in little boxes. We spread them throughout the garden and wait for them to devour the 5,000 aphids (plant lice) they're famous for eating. We also benefit from them chewing on soft-scale insects, mealy bugs, spider mites and eggs of the Colorado Potato Beetle and European Corn Borer. However, the
more aggressive beetles imported from Japan and elsewhere, have tipped the scale of nature and become more of a plague.
Ladybugs now comprise up to 4,000 variations of the species. They come in many different colors on the shells and in the design of the spots. Like many of the brightly colored insects, ladybugs are distasteful to predators
including birds. When disturbed, they may secrete an odorous fluid out of their joints to warn enemies of their distastefulness.
Adult females lay their eggs in the vicinity of aphid colonies. The tiny, yellow, oval eggs are laid upright in clusters of 10 to 50 on undersides of leaves. In her lifetime, the female can lay between 50 to 300 eggs. The eggs hatch in 3 to 5 days, and the larvae feed on aphids or other insects for 2 to 3 weeks, then pupate. Usually the life cycle from egg to adult requires between 3 to 4 weeks. In all, there may be 5 to 6 generations per year.
During the autumn, ladybugs crawl to overwintering sites where a few to several hundred will gather in an aggregation. The aggregate site may be located along fences, in trees, under logs or rocks. They can also be found under leaves, which protect them from cold winter weather. Today, with the population explosion of ladybugs, the aggregations are finding their way
into homes for winter hibernation.
Ladybugs enjoy the warm, sunny weather of autumn as they crawl around looking for a hibernation spot. They can be found on the sunny, south side of homes and buildings during the daytime. They seek cover and protection as the nighttime temperatures drop. Without proper caulking and weather-stripping, the house can quickly become infested with the insects, which only need tiny cracks for entry.
The easiest method of preventing thousands of these insects from invading your house is through weatherproofing. This method would also include the
attic and crawl spaces, a favorite hibernation area for the ladybugs. A side benefit to insect prevention measures is the reduction in cold winter winds entering the house.
If the ladybugs are entering the house faster than you can carry them out, there are more aggressive measures to keeping your house and food bug-free. Since the ladybugs secrete a yellow substance when swatted, vacuuming them off walls and ceilings is a cleaner method. They do have a way of crawling back out of some vacuum cleaners though, so keep this in mind before you store your machine back in the closet.
The plague of the ladybug invasion was supposed to end several years ago. Instead, their population continues to explode each year. If you're like me, I want to keep my domain to my family and myself. Until nature stabilizes
itself once again, I think I'll let the ladybugs know that their home is on the outside of my house.
JEAN MUEHLFELT has been an avid organic gardener for the past 26 years. She lives with her husband on a farm in Wisconsin. Jean is an avid writer and is the editor for the bi-monthly ezine for Mrs-S.com, a website dedicated to women of all walks of life.