The Suitcase Lady


November 3, 2010, 3:57 am

Several hundred houseguests arrived last week. Fortunately, they don’t want to be fed. Unfortunately, some want to fall into bed with us.

Our guests are Harmonia axyridis a.k.a. Multi-Colored Asian Beetles. They are nicknamed Halloween beetles, an appropriate name as they are filled with tricks and are not exactly a treat to have around.

These bugs are plump, larger than native lady beetle species and range in color from yellow to red. Their black dots can be nonexistent or up to twenty. There is no uniform dress code for these insects.

United States Department of Agriculture scientists introduced the Asian ladybugs to do what the beetles do best… eat aphids. Others hitched rides on freighters and cargo. All have made themselves right at home to the point where our native species are dying out.

In Fall, masses of these beetles start searching for warm, dry cracks and crevices in which to hibernate. Our homes fit that description, especially the warm, sun-facing exposures.

It is our experience that these visitors arrive surreptitiously. Then, on a brilliant Fall day when the thermometer goes over 50 degrees, they come marching out to say,”Surprise! Thanks for the hospitality.” In the midst of an invasion, it is well to remember their good points:

*They are harmless to people and pets.

*They don’t eat our food, unless our kitchens are filled with aphids.

*They don’t have sex orgies in the house. In spring, they crawl outside for a roll in the foliage.

These beetles do have some tricks. They squirt foul-smelling, yellow fluid from their legs when they are threatened. Few bite, but all can inflict small pricks from spurs on their legs.

These lady bugs are also photopositve or are attracted to light. Since they swarm over windows, skylights and glass doors, prepare to view your landscapes through polka dots.

Our personal houseguest survival strategy plan is to hope for cooler, Fall days when our boarders will crawl back into the cracks. If that doesn’t occur and critical masses form, we can always resort to the shop-vac. We would prefer coexistence, there is so little of that these days.

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