Ladybug population up this year

They swarm near trees and cling to the sides of buildings. They can easily squeeze their way through cracks in foundations or window frames. And according to experts, their population in Northwest Ohio could be unusually high this year.

A member of the Coccinellidae family of ladybeetles, the Asian Ladybug feasts on aphids and other pests found locally in soybean fields. Wet summer weather, yielding a high population of aphids, attracted large numbers of ladybugs to the area this year, according to Craig Everett, program assistant and horticulturist with Wood County’s Ohio State University Extension.

Imported from East Asia in 1977 to control the crop-damaging pecan aphid in Georgia, Asian ladybugs were first noticed in Ohio in 1993.

“Last year it was an incredibly dry year … and the aphid population just didn’t develop,” Everett said. “This year on the other hand we had cool, wet weather. The aphids have a good time in the soybeans.”

The ladybugs have a good time too, until their food source becomes sparse, Everett said. After the aphids are gone, ladybugs invade urban environments in search of alternative food sources and places to spend the winter.

“As the beans dry out they start moving off of the beans and into … our urban areas,” he said. “You find them clustered on trees and the southwest sides of buildings because it heats up as the sun hits it.”

While they are known to bite humans they’re testing for potential food sources they don’t carry the flu virus contrary to one myth surrounding the creatures.

“There are a lot of urban rumors,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, health education supervisor for the Wood County Health Department. “Had this been a problem I would have heard. They can have a nasty bite, but there’s no known condition for that.” However, it is not uncommon for some to have slight allergic reactions to such bites.

“A lot of people are sensitive to strange substances … and people could react to that,” she said.

Ladybugs were noticed last week on campus including inside buildings often clustering together as a result of the scent released by females to attract ladybugs of the same species.

According to Sandy Tolbert, help desk consultant with Facilities Services, the office received more than 100 reports of problems with the creatures last week. All reports are being handled by pest control and custodial staff.

But according to Crispina Molina, custodial manager of academic building services, once the ladybugs have found their way in, there are limited ways to get rid of them.

“There’s not really too much we can do,” she said. “What we were told to do is vacuum them up as best we can. There’s not too much that we’ve found that can kill them.”

The best control for these lady beetles, Everett said, is prevention.

Small openings, like around window frames, should be sealed by caulking and broken screens should be replaced. A chemical spray application in late September and early October on the outside of buildings also works well, he said.

But once ladybugs are inside, using a vacuum without rotating brushes or a broom and dustpan to sweep them up are the best bets, Everett said. The blood protein that is released from ladybugs when they are crushed or squeezed has an odor that most don’t find appealing.

“Suck them up using a dust buster or a shop vac,” Everett said. “If they get killed over those brushes it will stink to high heaven and you’ll want to throw that vacuum out the window.”