The Beetle Battle can refer to only one thing – the siege of lady beetles that hit the Midwest every spring and fall. They flock from soybean fields during harvest searching for shelter, hibernate the winter through in our homes, and emerge – just like us – when the weather warms and the sun shines longer.
The multicolored Asian lady beetles (the official name for this beneficial insect) arrived in the United States in 1916 as part of a federal effort to control tree-eating bugs and aphids. Another round was introduced in the mid-60s, late 70s and early 80s. This “save the trees” project firmly established the beetles in the North American ecosystem, which as luck would have it, does not include any of their naturally occurring predators. Vacuums don’t count.
The folks at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service do acknowledge in their own fact sheet, the unfortunate results of introducing non-native species into a new ecosystem. “It is probable that their introduction into new habitats in the United States freed these lady beetles from some natural population checks and balances that occur within their native Asian range.”
No kidding. I’ve got my checks and balances though. It’s called a Dirt Devil.
Looking for the experts’ choice of extermination? One doesn’t exit. Pesticides are not considered effective, even the residual types. My Farmer is pretty sure his magic potion works. In the fall, he circles the house with his spray can before leaving for the fields, giving me opportunity to vacuum millions of dead beetles instead of live ones. At least my walls don’t move. For the legions emerging this spring though, my faith in his potion is waning.
The most popular advice is to prevent the beetles from entering the home in the first place. Not the easiest task considering they can weasel through cracks as small as 1/8 inch.
It’s no wonder birds and bugs have not included the lady beetle as a part of their balanced diet. When squashed, the beetles emit a yellow fluid that can stain walls, fabrics and siding. With that comes a subtle stink that lingers. My front door is the popular gathering place in the fall. Phew! Doesn’t quite say, ‘welcome to our home.’
The good news is that in spite of their numbers, the lady beetles do not damage structures. They just use our homes as a place to sleep for the winter. In their native ecosystem, the beetles would hibernate in cliff walls. Seen any of those around northern Illinois?
A vacuum and broom are the only effective ways to deal with large volumes of beetles. Use duct tape for smaller groupings. My Farmer wants to mount a bug zapper in the living room.