Asian Lady Beetles Are Real Stinkers

 I despise Asian lady beetles. They moved into my house last fall and have taken up housekeeping like an unwanted relative. They stink, they fly on you and can even bite you. They attempt to look like the cute little lady bug that shows up in your garden, but after a closer look you can tell real quick that they are anything but cute. They can live up to three years, but not if they show up in my house.

As the weeks progressed from fall into winter in our state, it seems the creatures have now taken up vacationing at my house. In fact, I think my place has become the Gulf Shores for these stinky beetles. I find them daily in the windowsills, on the floor, on my nightlight (yes, I do have a nightlight to keep away the boogie man) and the corners of the ceiling in the garage. They are even in my office at work and seem to have taken a liking to staying there. These polka-dotted beetles have made themselves a real nuisance.

They are actually Harmonia axyridis or multicolored Asian lady beetles. Just as their name indicates, they are not originally from these parts, but since their introduction to the US, they have made our homes and farms their new place of abode.

Several state Extension programs report that the beetle is native to eastern Asia. Since the early 1980s, several states, including Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Maryland, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, attempted to establish the beetle as a natural control agent of agricultural pests. No one seems to admit that there was ever a release here in Tennessee and their movement to our part of the country is just a natural migration from other states.

They work as a biological control against aphids and other soft-bodied insects that can damage trees and crops. They will not eat up your house or lawn, but can be a nuisance when they take over your house. They are harmless to people, don’t carry diseases and have a slight odor surrounding them coming from a fluid that they use as a protective measure against predators. I have heard however, that some people do develop allergies to these little bugs and it has caused some problems.

They tend to be more attracted to lighter colored buildings. My house is a light green painted western cedar, making me a perfect target for a stopping place to spend the night. In their native countries, they congregate on light-colored rock faces and bluffs.

For this reason, the beetles tend to appear more often on the sunny side of houses, which is usually the southwest side. Houses that do not get a lot of sun, especially if you have shade on the southwest side, are less likely to attract lady beetles.

It is reported by several sources that the Asian lady beetle is a tree-dwelling insect, which makes homes and buildings in forested areas a target for infestation. Kentucky's extension service reports that suburban and landscaped industrial settings adjacent to wooded areas have also had large lady beetle aggregations. They also say that once the beetles land on the sunny side of a building, they attempt to locate cracks and other dark openings for hibernation sites, which explains why my attic has become the Conrad Hilton for these “skunk” bugs. It is important to caulk around the outside of your house to keep them out, but it is tough to secure the entire house because the smallest crack will allow them to slip in.

About the only way I have found to get rid of them once they set up housekeeping is to vacuum them up. But, they can really smell up your vacuum cleaner in a hurry. I keep a small hand-held vacuum just for the purpose of getting this unwelcomed guest out of my house. They stay longer each year and it seems they are here to stay. I know they are only looking for a warm spot to spend the winter months, but I wish they would go back to the states that first wanted them to begin with. Hopefully come warmer days they will return to the outside and I will not have to worry with them again until October. I’ve about worn my vacuum out!

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About the Author - Pettus L. Read

Pettus L. Read is editor of the Tennessee Farm Bureau News and director of communications for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at pread@tfbf.com