Do-good, harmless ladybugs plentiful this year
The Gazette, November 7, 2000
Wow! Have you ever seen so many ladybugs? Where did they all come from? I did some digging to find out. It seems that Ohio's ladybug population grew in size about 5 years ago when the government, namely forestries and agricultural agencies, got together and decided to import the Asian lady beetle - 88,000 of them, to the northeastern states of the U.S. You will never guess why! These ladybugs were set loose to enjoy an aphid insect buffet! You see, ladybugs devour aphids (tiny soft-bodied insects) which destroy the foliage of the hardwood trees. It makes perfect environmental sense when you realize that Ohioans along with our neighboring states people enjoy the wonderful sights, sounds, textures, and shapes of the foliage varieties in our area. After all, these are the joys of seasonal weather. So, thank the ladybugs next time you take a ride to enjoy the scenery. But that's not all.
These little creatures are not only helping the hardwood trees, but they are beneficial for our gardens as well. For years I have had annual, perennials, and herbal plants in my garden. Each year I wonder about the red-spotted visitors. I notice they flock to my catmint -nepeta x faassennii ( which is different from catnip). They also hang out with my roses. And, they especially like my lemon balm - melissa officinalis. Now I know that the ladybugs are not hurting my plants, but simply eating their aphid meals from these plants. They consume more than 5000 aphids in their adult life! Other common plants which attract aphid, and therefore, ladybugs are : citrus fruit trees, hybiscus, and tomatoes plants. But, remember that ladybugs also eat other soft-bodies insects which may be homing on your plants. And, these listed plants are only few of
So, if they are garden bugs, why are they all over your house? As I suspected, ladybugs are attracted to light-colored objects - especially poorly insulated homes that have warm exteriors. It seems they like to winter indoors! They will cluster together like football players in a huddle. But don't expect them to play the game. No, they will just find a corner and hibernate. If the humidity is ample in your home, they will survive and fly away in the springtime. Others will die. These little creatures only live for about a year. Their life cycle begins with an egg. Then, larva. Hello, pupa. Then into the ladybug!
How many different ladybugs can you find? Over the years, I've spotted
all kinds! Some with spots. Some with no spots. How many spots do ladybugs have?
I wondered if the plain ladybugs were indeed the same bug. Yup! Ladybugs can
have zero spots - up to 24 spots! And, they come in lots of colors, too. There
are over 500 kinds of ladybugs in the United States! Look out for shades of
reds, yellows, oranges, grays, pinks, and even blacks. But don't expect to find
the blue ladybugs in Ohio - or even the northeastern states. Nope. You'll have
to travel to the South American rain forest! Now, since
ladybugs come in so much variety, spots and colors, they all have scientific names. But, here in the northeast, the convergent or common ladybugs rule - basic red with black spots. Of course, you will now see the imported Asian lady beetle - also red with black spots. How will you know the difference? You might not. But, it's been told that the Asian lady beetles are more aggressive in habit. I found out that this sometimes means that you may feel a slight nip when the Asian lady beetle lands on your skin. Yup, they bite. But, don't worry because they cannot harm you, draw blood, or poison you.
Just gently scoot them away so they can do their environmental work.
For pros and cons to purchasing beneficial ladybugs, log on to ohioline.ag.ohio-state.edu or phone the Ohio state University extension. Also check out ladybuglady.com. The ladybug lady has colorful photos and great information on ladybugs. Thank you Ladybug Lady, Lori Robinson for the informative phone interview!
In the meantime, get outside and visit these sassy little red bugs.
by Lorraine Barnett
Guest Writer for The Gazette