Lady beetles not so lady-like

Typically, the ladybug or lady beetle, is one of the more popular insects with their bright red color and black spots. You can find decorations adorn with ladybugs, ladybug toys, and even clothing with ladybugs as the main feature. But, if you have had lady beetles invading your home during the winter months, you may not find them so cute or interesting anymore.

The multicolored Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia Axyridis) now makes its home in the U.S. A native of Asia, this beneficial ladybug was imported in the early 1900s to help naturally control pest populations that were damaging such crops as alfalfa, pecan and citrus trees. The beneficial aspects of this ladybug have been quite useful in reducing the need for pesticides and have relieved the hardwood forests of many disease carrying aphids, mites and scale insects.

The Asian Lady Beetle is much like the native species found through the U.S. However, unlike the native species, this ladybug can be quite aggressive. Masses of ladybugs have been known to swarm and even bite when seeking shelter for the winter months. In this regard, they have been an unwelcome guest for homeowners that don't find them to be good luck at all, but rather a nuisance.

Research entomologists have been working diligently on methods to prevent ladybugs from entering the home and on ways to safely and effectively capture them once inside. Fortunately, ladybugs are not structure damaging insects. They will not eat home materials and will not lay eggs inside the home. Yet, if disturbed, the ladybug will stress, releasing a yellow, smelly substance from their joints - this is known as reflex bleeding. It is a defensive mechanism for the insect to defend itself from predators.

The best preventative is to caulk cracks and crevices around doors and windows, pipes that enter the house and replace or repair damaged clap boards. Once ladybugs penetrate the home, they typically return year after year, knowing this was a good site to rest. Pheromones released by past ladybugs are detected by future generations. Also, the color of a home and the location are important factors. They tend to chose light colored homes that are nestled in forest or wooded areas.

Anne Lenox Barlow has had experience in the agricultural field as a horticulture educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. She can be reached by e-mail at a.lennox.barlow@gmail.com.

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