Autumn is such a beautiful time of the year. Orange and gold leaves silhouetted against amazing blue skies. Perfect little white puff clouds.
And of course, having your entire home and person covered in ladybugs. Or, more specifically, Asian lady beetles.
Here in Oklahoma, we have a lot of bugs. And when the air turns crispy cool, they all want to come inside and live with us.
Usually, the kind of bugs you don't want to room with, like spiders, scorpions, wasps and assassin bugs.
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And they come from "out of nowhere". One day, we had none, then the next day, we couldn't walk outside without being completely covered in them. My husband was trying to talk to the mail carrier and they both had to flee because the bugs were flying in their eyes and mouths and clothes.
I walked out later to feed the chickens and it was like walking through orange sleet. The whole south side of my house was "alive"...a squirming, orange mass.
Inside the house wasn't much safer.
Sufficiently eeked out yet?
Yeah. The only people excited were my kids, who kept running from room to room, exclaiming "WOW" whenever they discovered a particularly massive clot.
It was only "wow" until I tried to make lunch and no one could eat for the bugs falling into their soup.
That is when you have too many bugs, no matter how cute or harmless they are. That's when you take action.
But Wait! They Aren't Really Ladybugs
They are technically still a species of ladybug. They just aren't native to the US.
Back in the day, they were imported to help eradicate plant-eating pests. They did that job quite well, but they were also fruitful and multiplied.
So what's the difference? If you are around them a lot, you just kind of get a feel for telling the difference. For one, the lady beetles will bite sometimes out of curiosity.
They don't really do this when they are swarming so thickly, but later in the fall winter while they are apparently bored and hungry, they will taste you.
They bite some people more than others, so either some grooming products act as repellent, or some people just taste like aphids.
Although bites aren't common, they can sting a bit when they do happen, and some people have a slight reaction, such as an itchy welt for an hour or so. (I even knew one person who was seriously allergic to their bites.)
They can look a lot like regular ladybugs, and quite different from other lady beetles in the same swarm. If you look closely, there is a little white "M" or sometimes triangle shape on the back of their head along with the white you see on the usual ladybugs.
Lady beetles also have a distinct smell, (rather musty), that can be pretty strong if they get agitated. They can leave stains on some fabrics and painted surfaces. Horrors if you have a lot of white in your home!
The worst part is that they all want to come live inside in the winter. They like windows and light fixtures, and are attracted to sunlit, light colored houses. Especially those with wooden siding and lots of yummy crevices for hiding.
I happen to have a banana yellow house with wooden siding that sits in the sun. Therefore, I am like a resort for vacationing lady beetles. But my sister's shady, brick house was equally swamped, so there really is no "anti-beetle exterior" .
Mostly, their presence is just a stinky nuisance, but in really large numbers they can do fun things like completely clog your gutters or even your bathroom sink drain.
Getting Rid of Lady Beetles
It can be hard to know when to start preparing for the onslaught. Some seasons you hardly see more than a dozen, and other years there could be thousands. They don't exactly tweet when they are dropping by either. It could be October, or November, or even early December.
Whether they have already showed up or not, caulk can be your best friend. Caulk your windows really well (this helps with your winter heating anyhow), and look for other places they (or any insects) might be sneaking in.
- Behind baseboards
- Around exterior doors
- Around plumbing or gas lines leading outdoors
- Crawl spaces
Even if you get the house so tight that a gnat couldn't get in, you have to get rid of all the bugs inside already, right?
There are two ways to do this:
- Catch and Release
I have zero problems whipping out a can of bug spray every now and then, but this would have been a LOT. And occasionally my three year olds decide to do weird stuff, like licking the cabinet doors to make "designs" or deciding to eat a line of crackers off the windowsill while pretending to be dogs.
I decided to skip the poison for this reason and use method 2. For the first half of the day I simply gave plastic jars to the kids and told them to catch ladybugs. (This actually kept them busy for three hours and I got all the laundry, and some ladybugs, folded and put away.)
The problem was that when it came time to "release", they didn't want to let their pets go. Then they decided to let them go INSIDE. And on the final attempt they spent so long on the porch letting them go one-by-one that about a million more came inside.
That's when it was time to pull out the Eureka and get to work. Just gonna say this is the best way to get the job done fast.
Funny, when I bought this vacuum, I was just in love with the idea of not having to fiddle with vacuum bags anymore. And also it has a super-long hose, which is great for short gals like me who need to vacuum every ceiling in the house in one afternoon.
Well, it also has the benefit of sucking up bugs without killing them. But remember that smell I mentioned when they get agitated? Being sucked through a Eureka is very agitating I guess, because wow, the smell.
In only 35 minutes I had filled one and a half canisters with lady beetles (and one spider). Any math people want to give me an estimate on how many bugs that equaled? Because I did NOT count.
This did not make the house totally bug free. They came back inside whenever the door was opened. They slipped in before I got all the caulking done. They came in as stowaways in my husband's hat...
They don't want to infest your house though. They really just want to hibernate until warmer weather. So the most amusing thing of all? The next day when the weather was a fair 75 degrees...they all wanted to go back outside again. Hmmm. Just like cats and dogs and kids!
Luckily, all the weatherproofing is now in place, so they will just have to go bunk with the chickens.