By PETTUS READ
It is October once again, and once again, I despise Asian lady beetles. For those of you who are not plagued by these impostures of cute little Lady Bugs, consider yourself a very blessed group of individuals. During this time of the year whenever we have a cold snap, then rain, along with a warm spell of weather, millions of these creatures converge on my house out of the sky and take up housekeeping like an unwanted relative. They stink, they fly on you and can even bite you. They try to look like the cute little lady bug that shows up in your child's Little Golden Book, but after a closer look you can tell really quick that they are anything but cute. Reports say they can live up to three years, but not if they show up in my house. Beware bugs, you've met the Walker Texas Ranger of Dust Buster Enforcement.
It seems the past few years, as the weeks progress from fall into winter in our state, these bugs without passports have taken up vacationing at my house. In fact, I think my place has become the Gulf Shores for these stinky beetles. I will now begin to find them daily in the windowsills, on the floor, on my nightlight (yes, I do have a nightlight to keep away the boogie man) and the corners of the ceiling in the garage. These polka-dotted beetles have made themselves a real nuisance.
If you want their real names, and not the one I call them when I find one on my toothbrush, it is Harmonia axyridis or multicolored Asian lady beetles. Just as their name indicates, they are not originally from these parts, but since their introduction to the U.S., they have made our homes and farms their new place of abode.
Several state Extension programs report that the beetle is native to eastern Asia. Since the early 1980s, several states, including Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Maryland, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, attempted to establish the beetle as a natural control agent of agricultural pests. No one seems to admit that there was ever a release here in Tennessee and their movement to our part of the country is just a natural migration from other states. Every time I see one it does cause me to have Georgia On My Mind and I'm not thinking at all of Willie with the braids.
Supposedly, they do biological control against aphids and other soft-bodied insects that can damage trees and crops. They will not eat up your house or lawn, but are just a nuisance when they take over your house. They are harmless to people, don't carry diseases and have a slight odor surrounding them coming from a fluid that they use as a protective measure against predators. I have heard however, that some people do develop allergies to these little bugs and it has caused some problems. It can cause a grown man to become very war like. I do have proof of that.
They tend to be more attracted to lighter colored buildings. My house is a light green painted western cedar, making me a perfect target for a stopping place to spend the night. In their native countries, they congregate on light-colored rock faces and bluffs.
For this reason, the beetles tend to appear more often on the sunny side of houses, which is usually the southwest side. Houses that do not get a lot of sun, especially with shade on the southwest side, are less likely to attract lady beetles.
It is reported by several sources that the Asian lady beetle is a tree-dwelling insect, that makes homes and buildings in forested areas a target for infestation. Suburban and landscaped industrial settings adjacent to wooded areas have also had large lady beetle aggregations. Once the beetles land on the sunny side of a building, they attempt to locate cracks and other dark openings for hibernation sites, which may explain why my attic has become the Conrad Hilton for these "skunk" bugs. It is important to caulk around the outside of your house to keep them out, but it is tough to secure the entire house because the smallest crack will allow them to slip in. I have caulked and painted the entire house and they still find ways to get in.
About the only way I have found to get rid of them, once they set up housekeeping, is to vacuum them up. But, they can really smell up your vacuum cleaner in a hurry. I keep a small hand-held vacuum just for the purpose of getting this unwelcomed guest out of my house. They stay longer each year and it seems they are here to stay. I know they are only looking for a warm spot to spend the winter months, but so does a skunk.
I just wish they would go back to the states that first wanted them to begin with.
-Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation.
He may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org