Ladybug onslaught means they are looking to hibernate
By Merritt Melancon, The Union-Recorder, December 02, 2003
One ladybug landing on your sleeve might feel lucky to some, but for those who are blessed with hundreds of these red and black beetles, lucky might not be the word they would use.
Laurie Robinson, a graduate student in Georgia College & State University's biology department, studies ladybugs and operates a ladybug information and sales Web site at www.ladybuglady.com.
She said home invasions performed by these little house crashers are pretty common during the winter months. The bugs are actually just looking for a warm place to hibernate during the winter.
"They feel the warmth coming off of the home, they feel the radiation of the heat off of the home. And they're also attracted to light colored homes," Robinson said. "So those are the two things that first draw ladybugs into the houses. Then once there's a mass accumulation, they leave pheromones behind."
These pheromones attract more and more ladybugs and keep attracting them in future winters.
Robinson also said older homes that are not insulated well are more susceptible to infestation.
But the good news, she said, is that ladybugs aren't actually harmful
"They're not going to eat things like your fabrics or your wallpaper. They're not a destructive house pest. But I have had e-mails giving eyewitness accounts saying, 'A ladybug landed on my dinner plate and it looked like it was eating some my fruit salad' or 'It was eating a piece of hamburger,'" Robinson said. "That does happen. When their food has run out and they're still running on high energy because of the heat in the house, if they happen across some people food they'll go ahead and partake of it."
Otherwise, she said, they live off stored body fat while they're hibernating.
On Robinson's Web site, she said leaving the ladybugs in your home over the winter won't do any harm, so she suggests just letting them be until the spring. Then they'll leave on their own.
For some, that might be a little long to wait so Robinson said the bugs can be removed with a shop vacuum or a hand-held vacuum. It doesn't hurt the bugs. But Robinson urges ladybug hosts not to use regular vacuums because that will kill them.
People with major infestations can use ladybug traps, which are available through a link on Robinson's Web site.