Ladybugs: Too Much of a Good Thing
When conjuring up the image of a ladybug, most often people imagine an insect more akin to a cartoon than a troublesome pest. Ladybugs have long been toted as an integral part of the agricultural ecosystem – a sort of biological pesticide if you will. Starting in the 1960s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture began a program to increase the populations of ladybugs in the agricultural areas of the country. This project was undertaken in order to bring down the population of insects that have detrimental effects on agricultural plants. The ladybugs that were released during this program were not native to the United States, and although scientists have not proven a correlation and causation style relationship to the downturn in native population production, one can surmise that a certain amount of unnatural competition has been added into a once stable ecosystem.
In general, ladybugs are not a pest that are usually feared. They are a positive force in the environment, as they eat aphids, and control the level of smaller pests when they feed. So, for part of the year ladybugs are actually an environmental boon. The main problems occur once the ladybugs find their way inside of people’s homes. This shift from the garden to the home normally happens once the weather begins to turn cold. Non-native species of ladybugs, like the Asian Lady Beetle – which is orange with black spots – like to essentially hibernate within warm, south-facing rooms. Ladybugs are generally attracted to bright colors, including white. These pests gain entrance into a home through small cracks around windows, underneath doors; they can squeeze through any area that is not sealed up correctly. Some individuals try to combat this migration by installing a “ladybug house” as a decoy, but often times this is only a temporary or insubstantial fix.
Once inside the home ladybugs can cause allergies, resulting in several respiratory symptoms including chronic cough, itchy eyes, runny nose, rash or asthma attacks. In certain places within the country where the ladybug population is very large, these allergies have become quite common, or at least on par with several other more well-known house-hold pests. The only real way to alleviate these allergic reactions is to remove the source of the problem from the house, and to try to contain any remnants left behind. If they are squished or scared they produce an acrid yellow substance that can stain walls. The act of expelling this defensive liquid is not the only way ladybugs can stain your home; they can create discoloration of wood and plastic in areas of high traffic, and will also emit a stench when they pass away.
When individuals feel the need to call for pest control services in regards to ladybugs, they are normally experiencing what one would qualify as an infestation. Ladybug populations that move inside can be quite large, essentially taking over a home, and making their presence known in all rooms of the house, including the attic. In order to combat a ladybug infestation, a technician has several different options at his or her disposal, which include, but are not limited to the use of the HEPA vacuum, a dust treatment, and the application of an aerosol product to the cracks and corners of the infested home. The technician would also look for areas that the ladybugs could have used to enter the home, and suggest ways to seal off these entrances.
In short, while ladybugs do possess several positive attributes, including a certain factor of cuteness, too much of a good thing can create an overwhelming problem. Be sure to contact a pest control professional for infestations inside the home.