From: Rob Forman, Rutgers University
Published November 21, 2014 09:49 AM

If ladybugs move into your house this fall, make them welcome

During the warm months of the year, ladybugs are like adorable, bright-colored lapel pins. They land on us, accessorize our clothing in brilliant red or orange with stylish black spots, and are delightful to have around. Several cultures even think of ladybugs as good luck charms for anything from marriage to childbirth to the weather to a good harvest.

Then fall arrives and the ladybugs need to find warmth, which is most available inside people’s homes – where they often descend in large numbers. Suddenly they’re not as cute to many people as they seemed outdoors. But Jessica Ware, an insect expert and assistant professor of biology at Rutgers University-Newark, says having ladybugs indoors serves a very useful purpose, and humans should welcome their temporary houseguests. 

“They’re actually great to have around,” Ware says, “because they’re most often predatory and they eat the insects we consider to be pests – especially aphids, soft-bodied insects that feed on vegetation. If you have aphids on any of your houseplants, and you have ladybugs in your house, you’ll no longer have aphids and your plants will be fine. Do not kill them. Do not spray them – because if you do, then you’re destroying some of the natural predators that keep pests in check.”

Because ladybird beetles (which Ware points out is the insects’ actual name) gather in big groups – mutually attracted by each other’s pheromones – they’ll often enter just one home in a neighborhood and skip the others. Ware says there is no good way of predicting which house they will want – except that they tend to like their environment moist and warm – much as we humans do.

If they’re already in your house, says Ware, you’ve probably got them ‘til spring. Many will die over the winter, and those that don’t will go back outside when the weather warms up. That is when Ware says you will have performed a true public service by hosting them through the cold months. They’ll devour aphids in your garden – if you have one – as they did all winter for your houseplants.  They also will go after aphids in your neighbors’ gardens – as well as on farms where summer fruits and vegetables grow.

“Aphids are one of the most common pests in people’s flower gardens and they especially like to destroy ornamental plants like tulips and daffodils and the beautiful things you see in spring,” says Ware. “Aphids basically suck the juice out of the plants and kill them, and they can breed by the thousands in a matter of days. But not if ladybirds get them first.”

Continue reading at Rutgers University.

Ladybug image via Shutterstock.

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