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Asian ladybugs infest some county homes

October 22, 2000|By JULIE E. GREENE

Asian ladybugs infest some county homes



They come in droves through vents and poorly insulated windows.

They've been found in beds and kitchens during mealtime.

They're Asian ladybugs and they're creeping out some Tri-State residents, according to Extension Service agents.

The Washington County Cooperative Extension Service office has fielded about six calls a day since last week from people in the Clear Spring area who are finding the ladybugs on and in their homes, said horticulture consultant Sandy Scott.

"People are eating and sleeping with them," Scott said.

The Frederick County office is getting a lot of calls from all over the county about the ladybugs, but agents in West Virginia and Pennsylvania said they've received few calls.

The ladybugs are out there, but many people have become used to seeing them so they don't call anymore, agents said.

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The main difference between the American ladybug and the Asian or Halloween ladybug is that Asian ladybugs congregate in large numbers seeking warmth as the weather gets colder, said Craig Yohn, West Virginia University extension agent in Jefferson County.

While a nuisance, the ladybugs are harmless in most cases. One caller said the bugs were making her sick. She may have had an allergic reaction, Scott said.

The Asian ladybugs were brought to the United States from Japan in 1977 for a benefit they provide - they feed on aphids, extension agents said.

Originally brought to Georgia to help control pecan aphids, Asian ladybugs also feed on aphids that get into fruit trees, maple trees and flowers, so they're good for gardens, agents said.

The ladybugs have migrated to the area and are not being released here as some people suspect, said Franklin County, Pa., Extension Director Robert Kessler.

Asian ladybugs come in a variety of colors, including yellowish-orange, with various spot patterns.

Frederick County Extension Agent Bob Bishop said people can spray insecticide on the outside of their homes, but he doesn't recommend that because the bugs are so beneficial.

Instead, vacuum or sweep them up and release them outside.

Whether the bugs are inside their homes or not, residents need to leakproof their homes so the bugs don't get in, agents said.

That may entail installing a finer mesh screen, caulking, and putting screens on vents.

The ladybugs are attracted to white or light-colored homes because they reflect light better, agents said.

The ladybugs almost cover the side of Darlene Semler's cream-colored house where the sun shines.

"They're just a nuisance. When you go outside they just swarm and get in your hair and on your clothing," said Semler, 61, who lives near Clear Spring at the foot of the mountain.

The couple replaced the windows in their house two years ago so the ladybugs can't get in that way, but the bugs are coming inside with them and hanging out in the garage. Her husband vacuums and sprays with Raid to clear them from his work area.

Another alternative is to buy a trap for $10 through U-Spray at 1-800-877-7290, Scott said. Scott hasn't tried the trap, but said it contains a pheromone that attracts ladybugs to the house-shaped box. Then the bugs can be released outside.

Or, like Lois Manfull, you can just leave them be.

"They don't bother me ... I'm not afraid of bugs," said Manfull 45, of Falling Waters, W.Va.

The bugs have been in her basement before, but this year there are more of them and they occasionally fly upstairs.

When the family visited a pumpkin farm in Harpers Ferry, W.Va., recently, there were so many ladybugs it became hard to eat because the bugs kept landing on the family's food, Manfull said.

Instead of killing them, Manfull's daughter, Maddasyn, 6, collected some for her bug box.

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