Watch out! It’s the invasion of the ladybugs

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 23, 2000

Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home .

Monday, October 23, 2000

Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home …

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It’s a child’s rhyme folks could be saying dozens of times a day with the recent invasion of Mower County by the orange or red bugs.

They are everywhere, inside and out, dropping in a person’s hair, crawling up the door, climbing around the window, wandering around the garden.

Familiar, yet not familiar, the majority of the ladybugs that litter the countryside are fairly new to the United States. While the traditional ladybug is red with black dots across its back and comes in a slightly smaller size, most of the bugs that make up this recent population boom belong to the Asian lady beetle family.

The Asian ladybug is larger and has an orange or light brown color, with some having black dots and some without. The Asian ladybug came into the United States around 1988 and didn’t make its way north until the 1990s with fall infestations happening over the past couple of years.

Extension educator Dave Quinlan hastens to assure people that the little bugs are strictly a beneficial insect.

"They feed on other insects, smaller insects like aphids and those black gnats," he said, adding, "not people.

"They’re good to have around the garden and in the fields, even good for houseplants. They don’t eat anything else in your home either."

The only possible problem with the little bugs, aside from their tendency to land where they’re not wanted and then stay there, slowly crawling around, is the fact that they will stain, particularly when squashed. They also emit a unique odor, he said, which is part of their defense mechanism.

"It’s better to either "catch and release," he said with a smile, "or to vacuum them up if you get a large number in your home."

The best thing to do, he said, is to find how or where the ladybugs are gaining access and plug it up.

The reason, he said, that the colorful bugs are making an appearance in and on homes suddenly is the approach of winter and the cooler weather. The warmth of buildings basking in warm fall sun attracts these insects as they look for places to spend the winter.

The natural tendency is for them to try to find their ways into the house and under the siding or other coverings of the house. Once inside, they are completely harmless. They eat nothing and don’t lay eggs. If left in the house or walls, they will find their way out to the outdoors again next spring to continue the next life cycle.

For Quinlan, applying a pesticide is the last and most undesirable option because the tiny insects are completely harmless.

"If we’re going to be a part of nature, we have to learn to live with the insects and the fungi as well as the deer and the butterflies," he said. "These little critters are just looking for a place to spend the winter."