As the holidays approach our homes are filled with company, but sometimes they are unwelcomed. Lady beetles are invading the homes of many south Georgia families this time of year. Some see lady beetles as a sign of good luck, while others see them as an unlucky pest.
There are several species of lady beetles that inhabit Georgia, but it is the Asian Lady Beetle that has the annoying houseguest habit. They are not harmful to humans, but might give you a little pinch as they look for a food source. Lady beetles are most commonly known for being a beneficial insect. This means that they are a biological control agent for many insect pests in the environment.
A lady beetle in its lifetime can consume up to 1,000 aphids! Lady beetles also will consume whiteflies, mealybugs, scale, mites, and many other soft bodied insects. They are very aggressive feeders, especially when they are in their larval stage.
Not as “cute” as the adults, a lady beetle larva resembles a fat alligator. Unfortunately, the Houston County Extension office has not been getting any calls praising lady beetles, but instead looking for ways to get rid of them.
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This time of year you will find most lady beetles congregating on the sunny side of your house looking for a way in. Lady beetles can easily enter your home through wherever there are air leaks. They also can come in through attic vents, gaps in the siding, where plumbing enters, etc.
In summary, if there is a crack, a lady beetle can come in. The key to keeping them out is finding how they are getting in and sealing that area. If you have to resort to physical removal, be careful. When a lady beetle is disturbed or crushed, it emits a yellowish liquid and a foul odor. This is known as reflex bleeding. The lady beetle uses this to ward off predators because it tastes as bad as it smells. This reaction can leave a yellowish stain.
It’s best to relocate lady beetles rather that killing them. Using a small vacuum or a broom, sweep them up and release them into a wooded area.
This will encourage them to find a wooden winter home. You also can collect them in a breathable container and put them in the refrigerator. The cool temperatures will cause them to hibernate and can be released in the spring.
If your lady beetle problem is outside, spray them with the water hose or the leaf blower. This disturbance will encourage them to move on.
Overall, we have to remember that lady beetles are a beneficial insect and play an important role in controlling pests in our environment.
Charlotte Mote is the Houston County agricultural and natural resources agent. For more information on any program area, contact Houston County Extension at 478-987-2028 or visit the office in Perry at 801 Main St. Office hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Visit the website www.caes.uga.edu/extension/houston for more news about your local Extension office.