With spring, ladybugs become active again
by Karen Garland
February 07, 2013 11:46 PM | 1150 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Most people have a fondness for ladybugs because of their colorful, spotted appearance or for their appetites of consuming plant-eating insects. Ladybugs lay hundreds of yellow oval-shaped eggs in the colonies of these pests, such as aphids. When they hatch, the orange and black ladybug larva immediately begins to feed. By the end of its three to six week life, a ladybug may eat up to 5,000 aphids! Adult ladybugs, also known as lady beetles or ladybird beetles, have very characteristic convex, oval-shaped bodies that range in color from yellow, pink or orange to red, or black, and usually are marked with distinct spots. This warning coloration is to discourage other animals that may prey on them that they have a nasty taste. They are also protected by an odorous fluid that seeps out of their joints when they are threatened. Of the 5,000 different species, there are several species of ladybugs that are equally unappealing to humans too. As temperatures begin to fall, the Asian ladybug, Harmonia axyridis has become an unwelcomed houseguest in many people’s homes. These autumn invaders are searching for protected sites to overwinter. Relatively new to this country, this beetle is native to Asia where it dwells in trees and fields, preying on aphids and scale insects during the summer months. During the 1960s to 1990s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture attempted to establish the Asian ladybug to control agricultural pests, especially of pecans and apples because our native ladybug species were not fond of these tree-feeding aphids. However, some scientists believe that current infestations in the United States originated not from these intentional releases, but from beetles accidentally transported on freighters. In their native home, most adult Asian ladybugs spend the winter months in clusters, protected from the weather in cliffs, but in Georgia, unfortunately, the next best thing is a house. Attracted to vertical surfaces, they often appear on light-colored walls exposed to the afternoon sun, entering through cracks and crevices. Contrasting light-dark features tend to also attract the beetles — dark shutters on a light background, light shutters on a dark background, etc. House color or type of construction is less of a factor for attraction than surface contrast. As temperatures warm in late winter/early spring, the beetles once again become active and attempt to escape to the outdoors in search of prey and to reproduce. However, some inadvertently wander inward, emerging from behind baseboards and walls to the dismay of the human residents. Being a recent import, few natural enemies are available to keep Asian ladybug populations in check. Fortunately, multicolored Asian lady beetles are primarily a nuisance only. If squeezed, however, the beetles may stain fabric and painted surfaces. They do not eat wood or furniture. To control Asian ladybugs that have invaded a structure the first instinct may be to pick up a can of pesticide. However, researchers urge people to think first before spraying. Ladybugs are extremely effective at controlling aphids, which reduces the need for pesticides. In addition, if sprayed the ladybug carcasses can remain in wall voids where other insects, such as carpet beetles, will eat them. Upon depletion of this food source, the carpet beetles move into the home and feed on carpets, clothes, linens, and many other items. Do not remove them one-by-one either because if picked up, it can cause them stress, which can lead to them excreting a yellow fluid that can stain carpet, walls and furnishings. So, what can you do? Try the following: Each day, vacuum or sweep up the beetles, disposing the beetles well away from the building, as they are strong fliers and will return. Purchase or build your own ladybug trap. Once captured release them outside. Locate entry points and seal up cracks and crevices to help reduce their numbers indoors.

Information about Extension Solutions for Homes and Gardens can be found on the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension website at www.caes.uga.edu/extension/cherokee or by contacting the Cherokee County Extension Office at 100 North St., Suite G21 in Canton at (770) 479-0418. The Georgia Extension Master Gardener Program is a volunteer training program offered through county offices of the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.
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