So, the ladybugs have come to spend the winter in your home. It was interesting and maybe a little exciting at first, now they have invited all their relatives and you are a bit overwhelmed. Rest assured you are not alone; this seems to be a nationwide pickle we are in.
Ladybugs are not really bugs, but beetles; the correct name is Ladybird Beetle. The name originated in the Middle Ages. The Catholic farmers prayed to the Virgin Mary for relief from the insects that were eating their crops. The ladybugs came, destroyed the pests and saved the crops. The farmers called them The Beetles of Our Lady. The name was eventually shortened to Lady Beetles. The Virgin Mary's cloak is represented by the red wings, the black spots symbolized her sorrows and joys. There are about 400 different species in North America and 4000 worldwide. The ladybugs we are dealing with are not the normal ladybugs that winter in leaf litter and similar places. These are Asian Ladybugs, which are more aggressive and heartier than the indigenous species. They were imported to combat a pest common to the Orient. It was believed they had failed and died out, however they are back en masse. They do not die in the winter; they hibernate, usually in caves or rock ledges. When these accommodations are not available, the next best choice is your home.
Ladybugs are harmless; they will bite or sting only if they have to. They are just looking for a warm place to sleep for the winter. They are extremely beneficial in the garden; they eat whiteflies, mealybugs, scales, mites and other softbodied insects. A single ladybug can consume up to 1000 aphids in its lifetime. This is all fine and good, but you still want them out of your home, and in the garden where they belong. The first step to remove ladybugs from your home is to keep them out in the first place.
Caulking. Seal every crack and crevice on the exterior of your home, especially around the windows. This is also beneficial in another way, if the ladybugs can get in, the warm air can get out. You don't want to heat the outdoors. Caulk every opening you can find, especially on the south and west side of the house.
Create a habitat. Create a habitat that native ladybugs enjoy by placing plants with hollow centers such as corn stalks in areas near the garden.
Ladybug houses. These are structures similar to butterfly houses, which may or may not attract ladybugs; they are however attractive ornaments in the garden.
Trapping. There a few light traps available in the market; they attract and contain the ladybugs, allowing you to release them.
Vacuuming. This seems to be the easiest and most common method to remove ladybugs from your home.
- A shop vacuum is best, as you can place a few moist leaves in a plastic or paper bag and place this in the canister of the vacuum to collect the unharmed ladybugs.
- The bag can then be placed in the refrigerator, and the ladybugs will be happy until spring when you can return them to the garden.
- If you prefer not to have ladybugs in the fridge all winter, you can take them down the road to the neighbors, or a location more to their liking.
Spraying. There a number of insecticides available to kill ladybugs. You need to spray the side of the house where they are entering. This will need to be done in the spring and fall every year. Contact your local exterminator for details for your situation and location.
Spraying though, can lead to a larger problem. Carpet beetles feed on the carcass of the dead ladybugs. The carpet beetles will then invade your home, and they do bite and eat furniture and other articles that the ladybugs did not bother with.
The best approach to the annual invasion of the ladybugs is to make your home as crack-free as possible. A little wildlife in the living room in the winter can be entertaining. A ladybug doing the breast stroke in your morning coffee could really wake you up. At any rate, remember they are harmless and beneficial, before you decide to live with them or not.