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Ladybug discovery

09/18/03 12:00AM By Charlie Nardozzi
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(Host) Commentator Charlie Nardozzi joins us today with some information about a new species of the U.S. ladybug population.


(Nardozzi) "Ladybug, ladybug fly away home," goes the children's nursery rhyme. That's usually the case in fall, except for a new ladybug that would rather spend the winter indoors with you and me.

The Asian ladybug is a relatively new species of the famous beneficial insect that has spread throughout the Eastern United States. Looking and acting similar to the native species, it was originally introduced into this country to control insect pests such as aphids and scale.

Its habits are similar to the native species in all but one important area: where it prefers to over winter. Native ladybugs cluster in masses outdoors under rocks and in old trees. However, the Asian ladybugs prefer a cushier life. They are attracted to light-colored objects such as white buildings. In fall they will congregate on the south side of the building to enjoy the last warm rays of sun. Once the weather turns colder, they move indoors. They don't discriminate as to shed, barn, garage, or your living room. All they need is a 1/8 inch wide crack and they'll squeeze their oval, ladybug bodies inside and huddle together in the corner of a room or window.

As with any new insect there are many myths surrounding the Asian ladybug. Let me dispel them. Although they congregate together in winter, they aren't breeding. Breeding happens in spring, outdoors. Ladybugs don't carry disease, so don't blame your kid's sniffles on them. They don't bite. They don't eat wood, building materials, animal, or human food. In fact, in winter they mostly hibernate and don't eat at all. If they do wander around looking for a snack, it will tend to be aphids on your houseplants.

Since they're beneficial, it's a good thing to have ladybugs around, but having them indoors in winter may be a nuisance. As you move about the house, sometimes they'll get crunched underfoot, drop into drinks, or get in people's hair. Also, when disturbed they exude a yellow-orange body fluid as a defense mechanism. This fluid can stain curtains, carpets, and clothing.

To prevent the ladybug onslaught, now is the time to act. Carefully seal cracks around windows, doors, siding, and utility pipes with weather stripping or silicon caulk Install rubber seals around garage doors, insect screening over exhaust vents, and repair exterior door and window screens.

If they still manage to drop in this winter, don't crush them or their body fluid will be everywhere. It's better to vacuum they away. Insert a nylon stocking in the suction hose or wand of your vacuum cleaner and secure it with a rubber band. Remove the beetles as soon as the vacuum cleaner is turned off, collecting them in the stocking. If you want to save your uninvited guests to release them in spring, place a damp cloth in the stocking and place the bag in a protected, but unheated garage or shed.

This is Charlie Nardozzi in Shelburne.

Charlie Nardozzi is an all-araound gardening expert with a special fondness for tomatoes and roses.
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