Beware of the Ladybug Home Invasion

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Say you’re sitting on the back porch with a nice glass of iced tea chatting it up with a friend. Maybe as the two of you sit there trying to solve all the world’s problems a ladybug stops by to say hello in her scarlet and black polka-dotted dress. You begin to notice more and more ladybugs around you. Suddenly, you find yourselves bombarded by these tiny, fearless bugs. You’re picking them out of your hair, shielding your iced tea glasses, and watching them run across your table. It isn’t unusual to see a ladybug every now and then, but it is unusual to be swarmed by them. So what exactly is going on?

ladybugPhoto: Flickr/Fredrik Ohlin

Like other types of wildlife and insects, ladybugs seek warmer shelter during winter. They look to find a place indoors protected from the environment, much like scorpions and other critters. Ladybugs like to hibernate in packs so they call all their friends together from the forests, fields, and grasses during late fall by releasing pheromones. The scent of the pheromones can travel up to a quarter of a mile letting other ladybugs know the directions to the latest favorite neighborhood hangout. And the pheromones are strong, too. The scent can linger for years calling future generations to the same hibernation destination.

ladybuginfestation Photo: Flickr/Brian Tobin

Ladybugs are attracted to light-colored, older homes and south-facing rooms. After a few days of cooler temperatures, ladybugs will appear in large groups once temperatures return to the mid-60s and swarm onto the sides of warm buildings. Buildings with cracks or crevices invite infestation in between walls, siding, and indoors, especially attics.

The good news is that ladybugs don’t cause too much damage. They don’t reproduce indoors and so the ones that emerge in the spring are the same ones that spent the winter in your home. They don’t get into food or damage clothing or furniture. And they don’t carry diseases, although recent evidence suggests some people may be allergic to them.

ladybirdsPhoto: Flickr/David Pettersson

When they are frightened they do release a yellow, stinky substance known as pyrazine which they secrete from glands on their legs. The pyrazine acts as a protective mechanism warning predators that ladybugs may not be quite as nice as they seem (and might, in fact, taste pretty bad). Not only does this substance stink, it stains. And that might have the average homeowner thinking twice about allowing ladybugs to take up residence for the winter. (To check out video footage of an unbelievable home infestation, go to ABC News.)

To defend against infestation, seal windows and doors with weather stripping and cracks and crevices with foam sealant. Sprinkle food-grade quality diatomaceous earth around the perimeter of your home. Vacuuming or sweeping up the bugs helps, too.  And if you find that the infestation is too much, call in a professional exterminator. At the end of the day, you can prevent a ladybug home infestation relatively easily.