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Lady Bug Invasion - Co-Housing Habits

Have you had a swarm of Lady Bugs or Lady Beetles in your house? I saw them come out of winter hiding (April in New Hampshire) in a nice warm office building. The warm spring weather brought them scurrying to the light streaming through the window. Amid confusion and wonder, we tried to figure out where they were coming from...and where they were going! The solution was the window and shoo them out. It worked. Within an hour the heavy traffic congestion was gone. Rush hour was over.

According to Robert Lawrence, Missouri Dept. of Conservation, Lady Beetles swarm in the fall as they try to find a sheltered place where they can hibernate during the winter. There are about 400 species of lady beetles in the US Most of these are considered to be "good guys" or beneficial insects, because they eat aphids and other insects that feed on plants.

Lady beetles are now coming into homes more and more in recent years because of the arrival of the multicolored Asian lady beetle. This species is a predator of aphids, scales, and other small insects on trees and other plants. This bright bug has picked up a variety of nicknames: Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle, Halloween Lady Beetle, Japanese Lady Beetle Asian Lady Bugs or Beetles ...with an official scientific name of: Harmonia axyridis (Pallas)

In their native range in Japan, Asian lady beetles swarm to cliffs to search for crevices for overwintering sites. However, houses and other buildings seem to be attractive alternatives to cliffs. These beetles enter homes by slipping through cracks around doors and windows or through attic vents. Lady beetles do not reproduce indoors during their hibernation period, and they do not harm humans or pets.

If you want to prevent a swarm of Lady Bugs from cohabiting with you during the winter, the best action to take is prevention.

  • Caulk up all crevices around doors and windows and have tight-fitting screens on windows and attic vents. Openings on the south and west sides of the house are warmer and more likely to invite lady beetles to gather.
  • If you have a swarm of beetles inside your house, about the only thing you can do is vacuum them up and dump them back outdoors, preferably in a sheltered place a long distance from the house.
  • Avoid squashing the beetles, because they can emit a fluid that can stain carpets or drapes.

Spraying with insecticides is usually not effective, and trying to use enough insecticide to have some effect just adds a high level of toxic materials to your home.

Asian lady beetles are suspected of having arrived by hitchhiking on a ship docked in New Orleans. They have spread throughout the eastern US and eastern Canada.

According to Nature Canada Lady Beetles have been a side-problem that resulted from governments and companies importing a "solution".

"The first alien lady beetle species was introduced in the 1880s to try to combat the Cottony cushion scale. This small insect was causing serious problems for the citrus industry in California, and the introduction of the Vedalia lady beetle from Australia saved these crops from imminent destruction. The success of this endeavour began a wave of foreign lady beetle introductions. To date, more than 170 lady beetle species have been introduced to North America. At least 26 foreign species of lady beetles have since become established."

Who could think ahead to the consequences of such innocent solutions? We, as a culture, are finally understanding the delicate web of life that is upset when regional balances are disturbed -- even for the most innocent or beneficial reasons.