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Sta-Home™ Lady Beetles - Sta-Home™ Lady Beetles - 1 pkg (covers 1,000 sq ft)
Why Are Ladybugs Living in My SpareBedroom? And What Should I DO WithThem????
Question Hello. I am well aware ofthe value of ladybugs as good predators. Each fall, however, they seemto all want to come inside my home. I have a sunroom and at times theycover the ceiling. Could this invasion be prevented if I were to placea ladybug house in my garden?
---Ursula in Missouri
Is there anything you can do to get rid of ladybugs? My uncle hasthem all over his back door—and everywhere else! Thank you,
---Wanda in Delta, Pennsylvania(a small town on the Mason Dixon line)
Answer. I answer LOTS of questionsthis time every year about these pest eating girls—which, in most homeinvasion cases, are likely to be multi-colored Asian lady bugs (orLadybird beetles, if you must be technical about it). Imported andreleased years ago to combat a pest they naturally dine on back home inthe Orient, they were thought to have died out and been a failure.
Then they started appearing in droves again—but at private homes. Inthe fall, they gather on South facing walls of light colored homes forwarmth, and then start looking for cracks or other ways to get insideso they can hibernate for the winter, just as they did in caves backhome. It is not unusual to find hundreds—or even thousands—clustered ina high corner of an upstairs bedroom, all pressed together to conserveheat for the winter. I generally have suggested two things. One, tothank them for finding those holes in your insulation—because ifthey're getting in, your precious heat is getting out. ("What are we?Heating the street?!") Do some caulking or repair the weatherstripping or close the window more tightly where they entered.
Then I've been suggesting that people vacuum them up into a clean bagthat contains some shredded leaves or raffia, mist it well and keep itin the fridge--misting occasionally--till Spring, and release them intothe garden then. But I wondered—where and how do they overwinter ifthey can't break into your home? IS it safe to vac them up and put themin the fridge? Or outside? Am I/was I/have I been, Mother-May-I-correct?
And so, I seized the opportunity to get in touch with one of myfavorite insect experts, former beneficial insect specialist for theCanadian government, and now private IPM Consultant Dr. Linda Gilkeson,who lives on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia.
She explains that Lady beetles of all kinds overwinter—indoors orout—in their adult stage. Some—especially the Asian ladies (which youcan easily identify by the fact that almost no two look alike) like toworm their way into caves or colonials. But native species will alsocome into your home if they can, and all ladybugs try and find a way tocreep into some kind of crack, crevice or other protected place for thewinter.
Linda—excuse me—DOCTOR Linda feels that it is "really important to getthem back outdoors for the winter. In the warm dry conditions indoors,they will quickly use up their body reserves needed for the winter andwill die in droves. They are quite tough and can be swept up orvacuumed with a small hand-held vac, and carried outdoors, where thecold keeps their metabolism slow until spring."
I asked her what she thought of my advice to keep them lightly mistedin the fridge till Spring. She says it COULD work, but "only if theyend up in a household of dedicated ladybeetle-o-philes who would puttheir welfare foremost until spring. If someone slips up and they areallowed to dry out, they will die." Most refrigerators, she adds, "keepthe air dry as part of the defrosting function," and she feels it mightnot be realistic to expect people to remember to provide moisturewithout fail all winter. And the reverse is just as bad: Too wet, sheexplains, and they could die of a fungal disease—especially whenthey're all crowded together like they tend to do.
There is, however, a third option. If, like me, you bring a lot ofplants indoors for the winter, and if, like me, you maybe might not getevery single little aphid off (hey—I was busy, OK? What are you—acop?!), you can try and carefully re-room some captured ladies to do alittle aphid eating for you.
Wait till its dark out and mist the plants down really well. Turn offALL the lights in the room and then spread the ladies out on the wet,infested plants. They won't fly away in the dark, and they're verythirsty. Hopefully they'll scour the plants for that water, encounteraphids, and do what comes natural. Bad for the aphids, good for yourplants. Keep the room as dark as possible for as long as possible—theywill cluster around lights. So if you can, screen off entrances tolight fixtures—and tape over electrical outlets.
Linda warns that she "worked in a solar greenhouse where we releasedlady beetles to control aphids. The greenhouse became quite cool in thewinter, and when fall came, the beetles disappeared into the woodwork(literally) and, most inconveniently, into the electrical outlets, sowe couldn't plug anything in all winter without crushing beetles."
And those houses I've always assumed were as worthless as the ones forbutterflies? "They can be cute garden ornaments", she says, "butthey're no more attractive to a lady beetle than any other paintedpiece of hollow wood. Beetles overwinter in leafy, mulchy areas,rockery, outbuildings…I personally cut my corn stalks down and lay themon one of my garden beds—you'd be surprised how many lady beetles go inthere for the winter.
Although the multi-coloured Asian ones do seem to be looking forstructures that remind them of rocky outcroppings," she concludes,"native species enjoy overwintering in the hollow centres of plantmaterial like corn stalks and bamboo stakes."
You Bet Your Garden Question of the Week ©2005 MikeMcGrath.