BEWARE: Home Invasions Up!

October 9, 2015

BEWARE: Home Invasions Up!

If you aren’t already, you should be on high alert. I’ve received numerous calls about homes around the county being invaded, some while the residents were in their house. I have to confess that we didn’t take all the necessary precautions and our home also fell victim to these invaders.

The Multicolored Asian Ladybird Beetles (MALBs), a common species of ladybug, are starting to congregate on the south and west sides of homes as our temperatures drop in the fall. This odd trait goes back to Asia, the original home for this species of ladybug. They would migrate to overwinter in the cracks and crevices of cliffs in its native habitat. Since cliffs are few and far between in eastern Nebraska, the next best thing they can find are the vertical walls of buildings, your home and mine!

On the outside, this ladybug doesn’t really cause problems other than large masses of the beetles will emit an odor. What makes it difficult to remember the MALBs are a beneficial insect, voraciously feeding on aphids, is when they look for sheltered places to overwinter and find their way inside your home. Once inside, they present several problems to the homeowner including:

•                They secretes a foul-tasting chemical, which makes them unpalatable to their enemies. This secretion can stain fabric and wallpaper.

•              Large infestations have a distinct unpleasant odor.

•              They have been reported to be an asthma trigger in sensitive individuals, and

•              They will bite. It isn't particularly painful, but it is annoying.

My wife reminds me of two other problems with the MALBs:

•                They are annoying as they walk across the television screen in the evening when our other lights are off and they are drawn to the light of the TV.

•                The biggest problem we encountered was when one landed in her cup of coffee when she wasn’t looking. There is no way to describe what happened next other than, “That wasn’t pretty!” The verbal barrage that followed would have made a sailor blush. The biggest challenge has been getting the coffee stains out of our carpet!

The best method to control MALBs inside your home is to keep them outside your home! Locate entry points and use caulking to seal cracks and crevices. Use weather stripping to insure a tight seal around your doors and windows, and make sure your screens are in good repair. Spraying them with an insecticide where they congregate on the south and west sides of your home will have limited effects because others will migrate in, replacing the ones you might have killed.

Here are my suggestions to callers once these beetles have found their way inside:

•              Do not swat or smash lady beetles. Their body fluids will stain draperies and wall coverings.

•              Using insecticides inside the home will not prevent other beetles from coming inside and has limited effectiveness unless sprayed directly on the MALBs.

•              Vacuuming up MALBs is as, or more effective as insecticides and is recommended strategy.

A helpful tip when using a vacuum cleaner is, if large numbers of ladybugs are sucked into the interior part of the vacuum cleaner, their secretions will cause the vacuum cleaner to smell like ladybugs every time it is used. To prevent this, insert a knee-high nylon stocking into the hose wand to capture the beetles before they are sucked into the vacuum cleaner body. Insert the knee-high stocking into a connection joint in the wand so it forms a bag inside the hose. A portion of the stocking is folded over the outside of the wand to secure it in place when the wand is put back together. After sucking up the beetles, remove the stocking and dispose of the beetles.

For more information on controlling ladybugs, contact your local Nebraska Extension office