As temperatures begin to fall, humans aren't the only ones heading indoors. Lady beetles are unwelcome houseguests in many people's homes.
"They're searching for protected sites to spend the winter," said Kristine Braman, an entomologist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
"They're native to Asia, where they overwinter on rock walls," Braman said. "Here they have to settle for the sides, walls and ceilings of houses and buildings."
Don't Kill Them
Cute as they are, your first instinct may still be to pick up the nearest can of pesticide. But, CAES researchers urge you to think first before you spray.
Asian lady beetles, or ladybugs, were brought into the United States in the late 1970s by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help fight a major pest of the pecan industry.
"These lady beetles were introduced to help fight the aphid populations on our state's pecan trees," Braman said. "Aphids feed on the foliage of pecan trees, crape myrtles, roses and other ornamentals. Our native lady beetles aren't as fond of tree-feeding aphids, so they don't do as good a job controlling them."
Great Aphid Controllers
Braman says the ladybugs are extremely effective at controlling the aphids biologically, which reduces the need for pesticides.
You still may not take kindly to having them hanging around your house. But, unlike many pests, lady beetles don't bite, sting or carry human diseases. And they don't feed on wood, clothing or food items.
Braman doesn't suggest trying to take them out one-by-one. "If you try to pick them up, it causes them stress," she said, "and they excrete a yellow fluid, which can stain your carpet, walls and furnishings."
Vacuum Them Up
The easiest way to get rid of ladybugs is to suck them up in a hand-held vacuum and then take them outside.
"You can also just sweep them out," said Braman, who actually has a few in her house right now. "I've known people who had so many in their house they had to use a shop vac to get them out."
If you use a standard vacuum cleaner to remove the lady beetles, be sure to use the hose attachment. Just slip a knee-high stocking over the hose and secure it with a rubber band. When you've sucked up all the lady beetles, turn off the vacuum, tie off the stocking with the rubber band and release the ladybugs outside.
If chasing bugs with a vacuum doesn't suit you, you may want to try one of the new lady beetle traps.
How They Get In
A vacuum, broom or trap may help you get them out, but you'll have to do a little detective work to keep them out.
"They come in through cracks in walls, around air vents and around windowsills," Braman said. "You'll need to search for their mode of entry and apply caulking."
Taking the extra steps necessary to seal these entry ways is also a good idea for saving energy, too, she said.