Hundreds of ladybugs descended on our Lake City bungalow last month. I couldn't tell whether they were coming or going. Some took flight, while...
Hundreds of ladybugs descended on our Lake City bungalow last month. I couldn’t tell whether they were coming or going. Some took flight, while others crawled on the siding and windows.
They only stayed for a couple of days and weren’t rude like some of our other wild guests — noisy Steller’s jays and insatiable squirrels who steal bulbs. By contrast, these visitors were a welcome sight. They caused no damage and even added a bit of color and fun to our surroundings.
Though I was happy to see our polka-dotted guests, the October arrival of these beetles was a mystery.
I kept hearing a tapping sound on the window. At first there were half a dozen, but as it warmed up, more and more appeared. Soon they were crawling all over the south side of the house. They were also in the kitchen and back porch.
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I thought this invasion meant our home was special. After all, folklore says ladybugs are supposed to bring good luck. If this is true, then we had hit the mother lode.
As it turns out, it’s common for ladybugs to invade homes.
Their usual routine
Most species hibernate in winter, when food is scarce, according to University of Washington biology professor John Edwards. Once they’ve established a nice sheltered place, they leave their scent and come back later.
Our old 1940s house with original wood siding has plenty of nooks and crannies for these creatures to crawl into. The unseasonably warm weather somehow riled them up, causing them to emerge early from their hiding places.
While I might appreciate these wintering guests, some homeowners consider them a nuisance. Pest-control specialists recommend sealing cracks, crevices and joints to prevent an invasion. (If a home becomes infested, Edwards recommends gently sweeping these beneficial bugs outside instead of calling an exterminator.)
Unlike termites, ladybugs are harmless and don’t eat wood or bore holes into it. In fact, they don’t eat at all during the winter. They simply remain dormant until spring comes along.
Once they emerge, ladybugs lay up to 300 eggs that hatch in four to eight days. The larvae feed on aphids for up to three weeks before entering the pupae stage. The adult ladybug then emerges a week later to begin the cycle all over again. There may be several generations hatched in a year.
Known for their voracious appetites, ladybugs can quickly rid a garden of aphids and other insect pests.
Scooting them along
I didn’t want to sweep my bugs off so quickly, so I let them hang around for a while. Eventually, my spotted guests had worn out their welcome, and it was time to say goodbye. The secret of their early visitation was no longer a mystery.
As dusk approached, many of them flew away or crawled back into their hiding places. I gathered up the remaining stragglers and put them outside.
As I watched the last ladybugs fly away, I felt a chill in the air and turned back into the house. Winter was on its way, and I looked forward to seeing my spring visitors again.