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Posted Sunday, November 20, 2011
Pittsboro, NC - Asian lady beetles begin their search for safe winter harbor with cooling fall weather. To them the sunny side of light-colored buildings seems ideal, although dark colors as well as brick or stone will do. Scientists speculate that some chemical cues (such as the scent of last year's visiting lady beetles) may lure them to sites previously used.
From the exterior, lady beetles tend to find cracks or crevices including faulty weather-stripping around windows and doors or around fireplaces and chimneys. They tend to hibernate in wall voids but on warm days may move around and toward light that may be in the interior such as around light fixtures. They normally don't survive long in the heated interior of your home, but that is of little consolation if they are in your infant's crib or falling on the dinner table.
Unfortunately there are few practical strategies for stopping them. It's easy to suggest you repair or replace all your weather stripping, but much more challenging to find all the gaps around chimneys or utility lines. Nevertheless, these are the most effective long-term strategies. Pesticides have limited effectiveness: it's difficult to get them to the places where lady beetles are; and besides, they only last a few days to weeks at best. Foggers may kill many of them but the fog will not reach many places where they may be hiding such as under the insulation or inside the walls.
Indoors, vacuuming can be tedious but effective at collecting the beetles present today. Repeat as necessary. It may be easier if you insert a bit of hosiery inside the vacuum tube and tape or rubber band it on the outside. Then when you have done the vacuuming you can quickly release the trapped insects in your garden or wherever you prefer them to be. Don't leave them to die in the vacuum; you will learn to detest the odor of dead lady bugs the next time you use it.
There are also black light traps that any electrical engineer can assemble. And biological control options that every entomologist understands. For more information about these options and more than you ever wanted to know about Asian lady beetles, check out the insect note here.
Al Cooke is a local Extension Agent in the Chatham County Center, N.C. Cooperative Extension
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