Every fall, millions of lady bugs (or what seems like millions) swarm
around my house here in west central Wisconsin, looking for a place to spend the
Actually, they are not "true" lady bugs. They are "Multi-Colored
Asian Lady Beetles." The beetles are beneficial to the environment because
they control aphids. And from what I've read, the multicolored lady beetles
are much better at controlling aphids than the 'real' lady bugs.
can you tell the difference between native lady bugs and the multicolored beetles?
Lady bugs are bright red. The multicolored lady beetles come in shades of
orange, from light to dark. They also have many variations of patterns of spots.
Some have almost no spots at all, and some have many spots. When you look closely
at the multicolored lady beetles, it doesn't seem much of a stretch to say
that no two are alike.
Unfortunately, on warm, sunny fall days, the
swarms of lady beetles are so thick around my house that in the afternoon, I
hesitate to even go outside to get the mail. The beetles land in my hair, crawl
behind my glasses and work their way down the collar of my shirt.
of the bugs also find ways into my walk-out basement. I have swept them
up by the snow-shovel-full (literally). My basement faces south, and the insects
are attracted to light-colored structures with southern, sunny exposures that
are on a hillside.
The beetles come in around the screen door upstairs,
too, and the next thing you know, I've got hundreds of them crawling on
the walls and across the ceiling.
In the spring, when it warms up, the
beetles emerge from their winter hiding places. Beginning in March, dozens of
beetles crawl around my home office, the kitchen, the dining room, the basement
and in other parts of the house, looking for a way to get outside.
Asian Lady Beetles are not harmful when they are inside the house,
although they can be annoying if present in significant numbers. It's a little
disconcerting to pick up your coffee cup and almost swallow a beetle that has
landed in your coffee or is crawling around the rim of the cup. And two or three
lady beetles landing in your bowl of soup can definitely make you lose you
appetite. If you have company coming, you also don't want guests to find lady
beetles in their food or beverages.
Although the beetles are not necessarily
harmful if they're inside the house, when they swarm in the fall, they
can create problems if they crawl into furnace vent pipes and plug them up. I
have heard of them plugging attic vents, as well. And one woman reported to my
husband (he is an Internet technician), that a lady bug crawled inside of her computer
and shorted it out.
When the beetles are present in large numbers,
you can also smell them. The odor is a little like burned rubber or hot
asphalt. When the beetles are threatened, the odor is particularly strong.
They apparently view being swept off the walls (or vacuumed off) as a threatening
situation. Sometimes when threatened, the beetles ooze an orange liquid, as
well. I have read that the liquid can stain walls and fabrics, although I have
not yet seen any evidence of that around my own house.
Here are five
ways that I've found to deal with lady bug infestations:
up the beetles with the vacuum cleaner attachment.
This may be somewhat time-consuming
but it is a non-toxic and safe method to remove the bugs. As far
as I'm concerned, time-consuming doesn't seem so important when thousands of lady
beetles are invading my house.
When vacuuming up large numbers of
Multi-Colored Asian Lady Beetles, be sure that you don't leave the attachment
hose draped across the vacuum cleaner in preparation for the next vacuuming session,
otherwise the beetles will soon find their way out of the vacuum bag and
will be crawling around the house again. One woman from my hometown says she solves
this problem by stuffing a paper towel into the end of the vacuum hose.
Seal up cracks or spaces around doors and windows, if possible.
up cracks and spaces will make it more difficult for the beetles to get
into the house in the first place. The beetles do not need much space to crawl
through. Even a door that fits the frame quite well may still leave enough space
to allow the beetles access to your house.
• Spray around door frames
and window frames with a bug spray containing pyrethrins or permethrin.
have discovered that the beetles will avoid crawling across bug spray with
pyrethrins or permethrin, or if they do crawl across it, they die in a short
while. I don't particularly like to spray bug spray inside my house, but when it's
a matter of spraying or letting thousands of lady bugs into the house, spraying
seems like the lesser of the two evils. I don't like killing the beetles,
either, and would just as soon "live and let live," but I draw the line at a house-full
• Use the garden hose to spray the beetles off
the side of the house.
In the fall, when the beetles are crawling on the outside
of my house by the hundreds of thousands (sometimes it's almost difficult
to see what color the house is because there are so many beetles), I take the
garden hose and use the sprayer attachment to spray them off the side of the house.
To make an impact, this must be done two or three times a day on days when
the swarms are active. I have also used an attachment for the garden hose that
allows me to spray a soap-and-water mixture on the house. I haven't noticed that
a soap solution is really any more effective at knocking the beetles off the
house, although the exterior walls are cleaner when I'm finished!
Learn to tolerate the Multi-Colored Asian Lady Beetles.
I keep telling myself
that the Multi-Colored Asian Lady Beetles are swarming around my house because
they are only trying to survive the winter — just like all living things
try to survive.
In the insect world, the beetles are known as predators
because they eat aphids and other plant pests. A few years from now, the beetles
may be in a low cycle, and then, perhaps, I will wish there were more of
them when the aphids begin attacking crops, gardens and flowering plants. (I still
don't want the beetles invading my house by the thousands, though.)