Asian lady beetles infesting many Avoyelles Parish homes
Sat, 12/12/2015 - 05:00
By Garland Forman
In the last few weeks, many residents in Avoyelles Parish have noticed an infestation of “lady bugs” in their homes. However, a closer inspection shows the insects are not always the familiar deep orange or red bug with black dots.
The insects are “multi-colored Asian lady beetles,” which are in the same family as the good luck token lady bug.
Lady bugs -- originally called “ladybirds” in Europe some 600 years ago, and sometimes called ladybugs and lady beetles -- are a beneficial species of beetle. Their Asian cousins have the same benefits for crop pest control, but are considered to be a “bad lady bug.”
Avoyelles County Agent Justin Dufour said the multi-colored Asian lady beetles are common throughout most of the United States and parts of Canada. The insect is about 7 millimeters long. They come in a variety of colors -- from yellow to orange to red -- and can have varying numbers of spots.
The Asian beetle can be identified by an M-shaped mark behind its head, Dufour said.
The greatest damage caused by the Asian lady beetle is the discomfort they give to homeowners. Tens of thousands of the tiny pests can congregate in attics, ceilings and wall voids. The bugs can then find their way into the living quarters of the home.
The beetles will bite, but they are not categorized as a biting threat. Their worst trait is a foul-smelling, yellow defensive chemical that can cause spotting on walls and other surfaces, Dufour said. This chemical keeps the beetles from being eaten by most birds, lizards and frogs. Its bright colors are warning signs to potential predators.
While most people are only annoyed by the odor of these chemicals, some individuals have reported experiencing an allergic reaction to the excretions. Those reactions include mild skin and sinus irritations.
“It is probably not an over-reaction to wash hands or other skin after contacting the beetles,” Dufour added.
This tree-dwelling beetle was originally released in Pennsylvania in 1978 and 1981 as a biological weapon to control agricultural crop pests. They are more “aggressive aphid eaters” than the native lady bugs, research on the pest states.
The beetle first appeared in Louisiana in 1988, with the most popular theory being that it was accidentally introduced into the state as a stow-away on an Asian freighter unloading its cargo in New Orleans.
“When the weather turns cooler, the beetles look for a place to hibernate for the winter,” Dufour said. “They move from the outside into warmer places like homes. When the weather gets warmer in the spring, the beetles go back outside.”
During autumn, the Asian beetles will gather in large numbers on the outside of light-colored houses. As they gather on the house, some find cracks or holes to get inside. The beetles’ activity can renew on warm winter days and again in the spring.
Controlling the bugs
Native lady bugs spend the winter outdoors -- where bugs should be. The Asian beetles winter in light-colored cliffs in their native East Asia. Since there are no light-colored cliffs in Louisiana, they are content to “make-do” with your house.
They do not burrow into the structure and do not chew on contents, so they are not deemed a destructive creature -- just annoying and unpleasant.
If you know or suspect that you may have an infestation of lady beetles, the first step in attacking the problem is to have a pest management professional inspect the residence. The exterminator will be able to correctly identify the pest and provide a plan for dealing with it.
Dufour said some residents have told him of a home remedy of applying a lemon oil-based spray that helps address the problem, but he does not know for sure how effective that is.
Other ways to control the beetles once they are inside include:
• Use a vacuum cleaner to suck up the pests, but be sure to empty the vacuum bag outside after each use.
• Use a broom to sweep the insects into a dustpan or other container and put them outdoors.
• Use insect light traps in locations that stay relatively dark, such as attics, which are attractive to the lady bug beetles.
• The best solution to the problem, of course, is to have the pest management professional apply the proper insecticides at the right time of the year to control the beetles before they get inside your home.