Insect Intruders: Why are ladybugs living in my house?
This non-native species took solace in some Charlotteans' warm homes this winter.
I thought I had a unique thing going.
When I tweeted that I had a ladybug colony living in my home, I didn't expect fellow Charlotte residents to chime in with their similar situations. I planned on charging $5 per head to view the circus-like ladybug spectacular in my master bathroom—where the six beetles recently took up residency—but it turns out my house guests weren't so unusual. Nothing to warrant a viewing fee, anyway.
At least two people resounded with some version of "same!" One commenter, digital marketer and blogger Kseniya Martin, said her group of ladybugs had chosen her home office. Depending on whether or not that room is on the south side of her home, we may have some answers.
Same, except they're in my office. I'm going to start charging them co-working fees if they don't gtfo.— Kseniya 🌱 Birch Co. (@BirchCollective) February 15, 2018
Why are ladybugs living in our homes?
It turns out these intruders have a track history. Not only are ladybugs unnatural to our indoor living areas, but they're also unnatural to the United States. Laurie Reid Dukes, an entomologist and the city's assistant arborist, says they are native to eastern Asia and were once introduced to the U.S. by scientists in the late '70s to try to control aphids, but it didn't work. Additionally, some scientists believe the current population of ladybugs (or ladybeetles) inhabiting our homes could be from an accidental introduction via cargo ships arriving in New Orleans. Ladybugs have discovered the United States, and they're likely here to stay.
They also like our shelter.
Ladybugs "overwinter" during the cold months, which means they seek shelter in which to spend the season. In their native Asian countries, they retreat into south-facing rock cliffs and crevices. But when fall rolls around in the Carolinas, these little bugs have to find other places to overwinter. Sometimes those places end up being our homes.
It makes sense: I first noticed my ladybug colony in the wintertime. The beetles were all huddled together in what looked like an ominous, dark blob on the bonus room wall. I assumed they were hibernating of some sort.
Dukes says, "Once they find a suitable location, they release chemicals, called pheromones, which are used to attract other ladybugs to their location."
She also says ladybugs can be found in large numbers in attics, ceilings, and wall voids, as well as near doors and windows which face south or southwest. The bonus room in my home is upstairs. It's all starting to make sense at this point, but one question remains.
How do I get ladybugs out of my house without having to kill them?
Now, as spring enters the scene, the beetles are ready to try to find their way back outside.
Remembering our earlier conversation with Dukes for the Summer 2017 issue of Charlotte Home + Garden, I recalled that ladybugs are some of the good guys. So, while I might be less skittish to kill a dangerous, stinging insect, I don't like the idea of harming good, innocent bugs just seeking safety from the wintertime. That's the thing, too: Ladybugs are generally not harmful to us or our animal roommates, according to Dukes. They may bite you when you capture and hold them tightly, but, for the most part, Dukes says: "They do not sting or carry diseases, but some people are sensitive to the odor produced by ladybugs and the fluid released when they are disturbed."
This fluid is released from the ladybugs' legs, looks like blood, and is just a defense mechanism.
Instead of killing the ladybugs, if you are having problems helping the beetles escape your home, Dukes has a humane solution for you.
"They can be vacuumed," she says. "The vacuum bag should be removed immediately, and the beetles can be released away from the house. Or, the bag can be left outside in a protected area."
To repel the bugs from entering your home in the first place, make sure all the cracks and openings around doors and windows are sealed well. Also, check your window and door screens, attic and exhaust vents, and chimneys for any damage that could be letting bugs inside.