Garden Tips - October 2016 - Deborah Carney

Watch out for the Asian Lady Beetles 

This fall, your quality of life could be affected by a larger than normal infestation of the Asian lady beetles-- due to last winter being warmer than normal, with little snow cover! This is a nuisance pest; they do bite and can cause allergic reactions like sinus irritations and mild skin irritation from the yellow liquid they emit--and this is one reason we must control them. They will fly to your home by the hundreds in search of a nice warm place to live for the winter. Once they get into your home, you will find them crawling on your walls, on the ceiling, on your curtains and they will get into your lighting fixtures--and they'll love your attic that is filled with nice warm insulation to cuddle up in for the long winter hibernation. If that was not enough to drive you crazy, they will often emit a noxious yellow STAINING liquid before they die in your home. This information does not come from the writings of Alfred Hitchcock--but it would make a good story line.

Asian lady beetles are often confused with the very beneficial ladybug that many of us purchase in the spring time to release in our gardens to eat such insects as aphids, mealy bugs, white fly, spider mites, scale and more. The beneficial ladybug will eat hundreds of insects and their eggs every day; they make the perfect predator insect for those of us who want to garden organically. They are friendly insects: they do not bite and do not emit a yellow staining liquid. These are keepers, and every garden needs to have them to control insect problems.
Like the friendly ladybug, they too eat other insects and are beneficial predators that eat aphids, scale, white fly and other destructive insects of the garden and landscape. Their main problem is they want to live in your home for the winter and cannot survive outside during the winter. They also multiply much faster than the common ladybug and can quickly overwhelm your home in the fall as the evening temperatures begin to get cold.

Why is this insect such a problem and why are they so many of them at this time of the year on and in your home? From what I have found out, it is all thanks to science and the US government. This Asian beetle was released by the United States Department of Agriculture to control insects on pecans and apples. Large numbers of these beetles were released in Georgia, South Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi, California, Washington, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Maryland. They assumed that the beetles would not establish themselves due to our cold winters. They were wrong and now we have a problem. Remember that "assume" means it could make an ASS out of you and me--RIGHT, Department of Agriculture?

The Asian lady beetle is also called the multicolored Asian beetle, the Japanese ladybug, Asian lady beetle, the Harlequin ladybird because its color will range from yellow to orange and even red-and it's sometimes even called the Halloween lady beetle because it invades homes in the fall of the year.

The adult insects are 3/8 of an inch long and wide, they are oval in shape with a hard shell that covers their wings--and yes, they can fly and they do. Some of the beetles have no spots, and their spots can range from none to as many as nineteen--but most do have nineteen spots on their shell. The head is partially hidden by the shell and is creamy to yellow in color with a distinct black "M" design in the center of the head. The common ladybug does not have this marking. The common ladybug has 4 to 6 spots on its back and light to medium orange in color.

This creature has four life stages: adult, egg, larva, pupa, and then back to adult. They are very aggressive in nature while the ladybug is very passive. You can easily handle ladybugs without any problems or noxious yellow liquid. The Asian lady beetle larva resembles a caterpillar and is black and yellow in color, often elongated and flattened with minute spines on its body. The eggs come in clusters of 20 or more, yellow in color and hang upright.

The only good thing about these insects is that they will eat from 100 to 300 aphids per day; they are voracious predators who feed on everything from agriculture crops to ornamental plants, keeping them clean of insects. The larvae can eat 60 to 1200 aphids during their lifetimes, so both life stages are beneficial--but it's their numbers that are the problem, along with their biting and our allergic reactions.

These creatures are attracted to light and heat during the fall season. They will be numerous around outdoor lights and porch lights--and once they find a crack, hole or any type of opening like vents, soffits, open doors and windows, they enter your home for the winter. They tend to collect in masses on the south and southwest side of your home because of the heat that collects on the siding of your home.

How to control outside has been a problem up to now, but with the new Bonide product called "Beetle Killer" with the built in spray attachment that will spray up to 20 feet high, these beetles can easily be destroyed this fall. Just spray the house, around the windows and doors and they will not swarm on to your home as in past years. One application will last for three to five weeks, depending on the weather and the product will decompose with rain and warm sunny days so not to cause harm to your plants or other beneficial insects. It is also non-staining to paint or stain used on your home. For small areas, use the new "Screen and Surface" spray from Lynwood Labs; it will do the same job and also works fantastically to keep no-see-ems from coming through screens at this time of the year.

Inside the house, the best way to get rid of them is to use your vacuum cleaner and suck them off the walls, ceiling and drapes. Dispose of the bags in the trash when the season is over and that way you will not have to use pesticides in your home to control them. Whatever you do, do not use a newspaper to swat them from the wall or ceiling or the squished insect will leave a nice yellow stain that will not wash off with soap and water; only repainting will do.

So, this fall prepare for the Invasion of the Asian Lady Beetles, just another pest that got here from Japan and has no predators to control its expansion in numbers--it's up to you and me to control this pest that could drive you crazy in your home this fall.

Enjoy the Foliage … Deb (October 2016 Horticultural Newsletter)