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Lady bugs surrounding and invading your home by the thousands? millions? It's not lady bugs, it probably the Asian beetle. Asian beetles have become a homeowners worst nightmare. Asian beetles, which are sometimes mistaken for ladybugs or lady bird beetles, are familiar insects in many parts of the United States. For the most part, Asian beetles are beneficial predators that eat aphids, scale, insects, and many other pests that injure plants in gardens, landscapes and agricultural settings. However, in many places the multicolored Asian lady beetle has become a household pest. This beetle feeds on aphids and other soft-bodied insects that dwell on crops and trees. Soybean crops are reportedly a favorite of Asian beetles and when the soybean crops get harvested in late summer/early fall, watch out! Asian beetles will be migrating to find a new place to live and breed. Maybe your home! Of course, spring time is also a good time to have an Asian beetle outbreak. Why do we have such large numbers - sometimes epidemic numbers of Asian beetles? You can thank science and the US government.
The multi-colored Asian lady beetle was first recorded as a pest in houses in 1988 in Abita Springs, Louisiana. It had been first released in the early 1980's as a biological control agent; and numerous subsequent releases have been made throughout the United States. Because the beetle was not recovered after this release, it was assumed that it had not established and was incompatible with North American conditions. The source of the 1988 infestation in Abita Springs, LA is unknown; but it is not thought to be linked to the controlled releases.
The original infestation site was close to ports used for international shipping including cargo containers from Asia. Since this inadvertent release, the beetle has rapidly expanded its range and is now commonly found throughout much of the U.S. Large congregations tend to be found on windows, doors, and porch decks, and in the walls of buildings.
Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis)(Actual Size - 3/8 inch)
Multi-colored Asian beetles are slightly larger than most native lady beetles, with adults measuring 3/8 inch long 3/8 inch wide. They are oval or convex in shape, and yellow to red in color (without black spots on wing covers). The beetles' spots, which can vary in size and pattern, number from no spots to as many as nineteen; however, nineteen is the most common number. The head is usually concealed beneath the disk-shaped pronotum, which is cream to yellow in color with a black 'M' design in the center. Asian beetle larvae are elongated, flattened, and covered with minute tubercles or spines. They are often described as alligator-shaped. The eggs, which are laid upright in clusters of about twenty, are oval and yellow.
Common lady beetles are different than their cousin, the Asian beetle, due primarily to the number of spots on their back and also their aggressive nature. Common Lady beetles have 4-6 spots on their back and are a light - medium orange color. They are very passive and not aggressive by nature. They are important beneficial insects that feed on a multitude of plant pests.
Asian Lady beetles by contrast, have multiple spots on their back (as many as 16 - 18) are a darker burnt orange and are very aggressive. When handled, reports of Asian beetles actually biting humans has been reported which makes their control that much more important. Instead of being a passive beneficial pest, Asian lady beetles are quite the opposite. Handle Asian beetles with extreme caution!
Once the weather starts to turn colder, lady beetle adults begin to seek over-wintering sites. The lady beetles appear to orient toward light colored, conspicuous objects, such as white buildings. Large numbers collect on outside walls warmed by the sun, especially on the south and southwest sides. When one lady beetle lands, many others soon follow. Some research suggests that this aggregation behavior may involve chemical cues (pheromones), visual cues, or a combination of all.
The Asian Lady Beetle is a voracious predator of aphids and scale on trees, shrubs, and crops. Adults are capable of consuming 90 to 270 aphids per day and larvae can consume between 600 and 1,200 aphids during its life stage. Both adults and larvae have been observed in soybean fields feeding on the newly introduced soybean aphid and are believed to be effective biological control agents in controlling this important new pest.
The greatest damage caused by the multi-colored Asian lady beetle is the discomfort they give to homeowners. It is not uncommon for tens of thousands of beetles to congregate in attics, ceilings and wall voids. When the heating is turned on the beetles tend to move around inside these voids and exit into the living areas of the home.
In addition to biting, they exude a foul-smelling, yellow defensive chemical, which will sometimes cause spotting on walls and other surfaces. Most people are only annoyed by the odor of these chemicals. However, some individuals experience an allergic reaction to the defensive excretions. Sinus irritations and mild skin irritations have been reported subsequent to encounters with the Asian beetle. It is probably not an over-reaction to wash hands or other skin after contacting the beetles. In at least one study, the severity of sinus problems subsided with the removal of beetles from the home.
Pest proofing or sealing the outside cracks with Stuffit Copper Wool may help to prevent Asian beetles from getting inside. This can be done by sealing all outside cracks and crevices around doors, windows, siding, utility pipes and other openings. A quality silicone or silicone-latex caulk can also be used for small cracks. Window screens should not have any tears and should fit snugly inside the window frame. Install insect screening over attic and exhaust vents. Take measures to exclude Asian beetles before late autumn when they begin to seek over-wintering sites - potentially in your home!
If numerous lady beetles are entering the living areas of the home it is advisable to locate the places where the beetles gain access and seal them thoroughly. Typically, Asian beetles will emerge from cracks under or behind baseboards, around window and door trim, and around exhaust fans or lights in ceilings. Seal these openings with caulk or other suitable materials to prevent the beetles from crawling out. A temporary solution is to use duct tape or masking tape to stop the beetles. A helpful hint to remember - the beetles are attracted to light and can see light entering through cracks in the walls or ceilings. Initially, concentrate on sealing cracks in the rooms where Asian beetles are most prevalent.
Vacuuming with a vacuum designed to capture pests such as the Atrix Bug Sucker may also help to collect beetles in your home. The major complaint for this method is that the beetles become agitated and expel the yellow, foul-smelling repellent, which is then circulated into the air by the vacuum exhaust. Also, it is advisable to empty the bag and beetles after each vacuuming to prevent them from escaping back into the house. Freezing the bag for at least 3 hours will kill the beetles, also submersing the bag in soapy water, or an insecticidal mix will kill them.
Using traditional vacuums, it is possible to capture the beetles inside a knee-high nylon stocking that has been inserted into the extension hose or wand and secured in place with a rubber band. As soon as the vacuum cleaner is turned off, be sure to remove the stocking so that the captured beetles cannot escape. As you remove it, the rubber band closes around the stocking, effectively "bagging" the lady beetles. You then can discard the contents of the stocking. This way you will not need to change the bag every time you vacuum every time.
Light Traps or insect "zappers" such as the Executor may provide relief from beetles flying or crawling around the exterior of homes with its light source. Asian Lady Beetles will be attracted to the trap and be "zapped". DO NOT use this type of light trap indoors. Light traps are most effective at night when there are no competing light sources. The tray may need to be emptied on a regular basis as the dead beetles pile up. Do not place this type of trap in the open. It needs to be protected by an awning, eave or other weatherized covering to protect it from rain.
IMPORTANT - any measure for control of the multi-colored Asian Lady Beetles assumes that all holes and entry points OUTSIDE of the structure have been sealed first. Sealing and exclusion is the most important part of controlling this pest. Without exclusion, the use of pesticides will only get you marginal control.
Using pesticides may be the only solution for eliminating Asian beetles. Non-chemical control measures will provide some control, but spraying outdoors on a regular basis may be the only real solution.
Use Onslaught Fastcap, Talstar, Bifen or Demon WP outdoors to kill Asian beetles. Treating outdoor areas is very time consuming and getting the appropriate coverage over the area can be a real challenge. But it's the only way to stop the invasion. Spraying indoors without spraying outdoors is virtually useless.
We recommend the Solo Backpack Sprayer or the Solo Backpack Mister for applying outdoor pesticides. The Solo Backpack Mister blows a mist of pesticide up to 40 feet away. You can mist the tops of trees and even mist the entire outdoor walls of your home or building in just a matter of minutes. This is especially important since repeat treatments may be needed every few days or weeks during a heavy Asian beetle siege.
Use Onslaught Fastcap, Demand CS, Demon WP or Alpine Pressurized Spray and spray on all baseboards, window sills, doorsills, and other areas where Asian beetles persist. A direct spray on the beetles provides the best results. Onslaught FastCap gives the best control, as it kills on contact and provides a lasting residual. Demand CS provides a long residual since it is microencapulated and Demon WP provides a much quicker kill. Use a good quality sprayer such as the Ortho Heavy Duty Sprayer to provide a uniform spray pattern. Be sure to read and follow label directions on any pesticide that you use.
CB80 is a pyrethrum based aerosol handheld fogger that quickly kills large numbers of Asian beetles indoors. Simply aim the CB80 can at the ceiling of every room, push the button and fog the room for 3-5 seconds (average size room) and then close the door and leave for 2 hours. CB80 also works best when the fog is directed to the beetles such as corners of rooms, etc.
*NOTE the use of Traps indoors for Multi-colored Asian Lady Beetle Control is not recommended.*
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