Sunday, October 12, 2003

Shoo, ladybug, fly away home

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

These bugs aren't very ladylike.

The Asian Lady Beetle, a foreign species of ladybug, was imported to this country from East Asia and is making itself quite at home - all too often in our homes.

Usually bright red with black polka-dot spots on their wings, the Asian ladybugs begin invading houses across the country in the fall, looking for a warm place to stay cozy during cold winter months.

It's that snuggling up for a long winter's nap that separates them from native ladybugs - the Asian variety prefers hibernating inside during the winter and, because of that, are much more of a nuisance to home owners.

Although they can bite, the bugs are not a health risk to humans or pets.

The lady beetles - which are male and female - were imported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and intentionally released in the 1970s and 1980s as a way to combat insects that damage trees. Since that time, the ladybugs have taken a liking to the United States and have thrived from California to Maryland.

Mike Potter, a University of Kentucky entomology professor, said the foreign ladybugs first started appearing in the Tristate around 1993 and, from what he can tell, their populations have increased since then.

"You can get them by the thousands inside a house, especially if it's not tight," Potter said. "We've been dealing with this for a decade, and it's still a persistent problem. We don't have a lot of real good answers."

The best solution is to keep the bugs out of your home, rather than spraying pesticides once they've taken up residence.

Potter said the beetles usually come out in the afternoon and are attracted to the southwestern side of homes and businesses.

"It's a real classic pattern," he said. "About 2 or 3 p.m., they'll fly to the sunny sides of buildings and bounce around, seeking out cracks and crevices to crawl in and spend the winter.

"It's a double-edged sword, because lady bugs are the insect symbol of a good bug - they eat harmful insects, so from that standpoint they're beneficial," he said. "But there is a real nuisance aspect to them."


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