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fall lady bug invasion

 
Judith Browning
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It is that time of year...we have had a warm up today and the wasps and these big lady bugs came out to play. The lady bugs are covering the south side of our house. I have always wondered what their larvae eats.......they are really out of synch with the growing things here and the summer insect population but they must be living off of something...maybe leftover aphids that are on something that I just don't notice. Seems like they just live for this big day on the sunny side and then hibernate until next year. I accidentally carried one in with me after taking these pictures and now I smell it....they seem pretty harmless except for that.
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Cj Sloane
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Judith Browning wrote:IThe lady bugs are covering the south side of our house.

Ours cover the inside of the house! It's pretty annoying but we were warned by the guy who designed the house. Not sure if it's just the warmth of the house or the relatively high humidity, but they love our house. It's just for a couple of weeks and then they mostly disappear.

They do stink so you can't vacuum them up and they do occasionally bite. They are drawn to light at least a little so it's best to read under the covers with the kindle.
 
Craig Dobbelyu
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Our invasion happened about two weeks ago. There are still some stragglers making their way in on the warmer days but most of them tend to get here in one or two big swarms. They cover the house and windows looking for ways in. They find little cracks in the walls and window sills. Of the tens of thousands of them, a few hundred make it into the interior of the house.
I usually wait for them all to arrive and then I go around and gather them up from the corners where they congregate to hibernate. I use an index card and a mason jar to remove them from the walls and ceilings. Once I have them all I find a decent outdoor place for them to hang out through winter. A wood pile or something similar works ok. Then I just dump them in a cozy nook.

As the winter goes on, some of them creep through the walls and find a way inside. Most are hungry and dehydrated. Since they congregate on the sunny windows hoping to escape (unaware it's two degrees outside), I leave an apple core for them to up their food and water. They will also drink out of potted plants. My kids like to catch them and put them in the plants.

Some live all through winter and exit into sunny spring weather through an open window as we set them free on spring cleaning day. A lot of them are found dried up in lamps and near windows though. You can't save them all I suppose.

The drawbacks are that they can make a mess by pooping orange goop on your stuff. They don't smell very good if you squish them or upset them in a rough way. They will bite on occasion... not sure what that's about but it does itch for a while.


Also VERY IMPORTANT: Make sure they haven't gotten into your car's cabin air filters or vents. I turned the heat on the the car the other day for the first time and within 5 seconds the unmistakable smell covered the interior and obviously me too. So... yeah... lady bugs. lots of fun


 
Judith Browning
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I spoke too soon........they're in! ...and interestingly, they are congregating on the ceiling above the LED bulb in large numbers and not so many near the CFL...same room 15 feet apart and on the north side of the house. I could draw some conclusions, I suppose

We are discussing them over breakfast this morning and wondering if there is any way to encourage them to get in tune with our planting season here...and still wondering what their larvae feed on?
 
Judith Browning
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmonia_axyridis
 
Craig Dobbelyu
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I usually start seeing the larva eating aphids on apple trees once the new leaves start firming up. I'm sure they are in other places earlier but that's when I see them most often. By this time the larva are about a centimeter long and cleaning up aphids like a vacuum.

Speaking of lighting, mine prefer incandescent over LED, and the CFL's are death traps. The tough thing about the CFL is that the lady bugs get stuck between the spirals and then freak out and make stink juice. Many die.
I think the incandescent bulb is hot enough for them to mind their distance. It's also safer in one way. If they bump into it they can't get stuck and fry.

I've heard that a good way to capture them is to hang multiple layered sheets of cardboard on the side of the house that they gather on during the swarm. Leave gaps for them to get between the house and the cardboard and also between the cardboard pieces. After the swarm is done for the day and they've cooled off, (evening or early the next day) remove the cardboard and sweep them into a container of your choosing. I don't know the best way to store them but I would imagine you need to simulate a hibernation situation. When you're ready to have them in your garden, wake them up and set them free. It's worth an the effort I suppose.

 
Judith Browning
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Craig, do you notice a difference in this, the asian lady beetle larvae and others? We have a much smaller lady beetle here, over the spring and summer, that I see around aphids on grape vines and maybe some other things but I don't think it is this same beetle. I'll look for some pictures that I saw on line earlier........
 
Judith Browning
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I'm sure there is better information out there....this site has some good pictures though..........My understanding is that this beetle, was an import to go after aphids on soybeans (that were also 'imported') They aren't the same cherished lady bug we see over the summer.
http://backyardwildlifehabitat.info/ladybugs.htm

and this to ID them...
http://www.discoverlife.org/20/q?guide=Ladybug
 
Craig Dobbelyu
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Just in doing a little googly and wiki reading there doesn't seem to be much difference between the different species except where they like to hibernate and whether they swarm or not. The little bright cherry red lady bugs with the black and white heads are the ones I was used to as a kid. I didn't see many, but that's what I remember. Now I see very few of those and TONS of the multicolored asian lady beetles. As for the larva, the searching I've done doesn't seem to have any consensus on differences between them for ID purposes. Image searches show many of the same images for both species. There's a little confusion and perhaps a lot of cross information.

The one thing I would like to know is what makes them a pest. I mean... for a while they were the great savior of the crops and now they are a pest? What happened? What am I missing?
 
Judith Browning
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The one thing I would like to know is what makes them a pest. I mean... for a while they were the great savior of the crops and now they are a pest? What happened? What am I missing?


funny isn't it? I think they became a pest when they dared enter homes...........it was hard to find anything about them that didn't end with how to eradicate them from your house. I kind of think most folks (except those of us growing food) would never think about them except when they show up in their living room. This is probably saying something profound about how people live now............no tolerance for any insects in the house. Not even some friendly in the corner house spiders.
 
Craig Dobbelyu
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Oh! I thought they somehow became an agricultural pest. Like they ate all the available aphids and so decided to go vegetarian or something. Aside from the smell and the fact that I find one in my water pitcher from time to time, I welcome them to stay. I could certainly use all the help I can get out in the garden.

When my son was really little he put one in his mouth and made that "this taste is shitty" face. I asked how it tasted.
He said "stinky gross badness a lot". Pretty funny from a 2 year old.
 
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