Question: How can I keep hundreds of lady bugs from crowding my windows in the fall?
We all know that being indoors during the fall and winter months is cozy and comfortable. Often, insects who begin showing up during this time feel the same way, as they are searching for a warm home in which to overwinter, and our houses seem very hospitable places. Though you may be a little creeped out by these crawly organisms invading your personal space, there are some easy ways for you to prevent them from coming indoors.
Often these heat seeking insects will overwinter under vinyl siding, or in the walls of our homes. This makes them “out of sight, out of mind” but any small cracks in these walls or gaps large enough to crawl through will be utilized by the insects! Once they make their way inside and discover that it is a pleasant environment, they can send signals to all their friends inviting them to the party through the use of pheromones. What was one or two then becomes hundreds and can be a problem for the human homeowner.
The first warning I want to give is this. Don’t squish them! Many of the insects that enter our houses can release liquids that stain or have a foul odor. We also want to avoid using pesticides indoors, not only because it is safer for you, but also because these insects’ metabolisms are slowing down as they get ready to settle in for the winter and the chemical controls may not be very effective. Use a vacuum to suck the insects up where you find them, as this makes them easy to dispose of and you don’t actually have to touch them. Caulking and filling cracks (easy entry points) and making sure door or window seals are still intact are good methods to produce barriers to these insects.
The most common insects you might see in your home are the Asian lady beetle (aka lady bugs), brown marmorated stink bugs, and box elder bugs. There are a few others which are less common like palmetto bugs (or wood cockroach), some flies, and seed bugs. Keep in mind that lady bugs are considered good insects, as they eat some less desirable garden pests in the spring and summer, so scooping them up and putting them back outside as you find them is a kinder method of control. Also, none of the home invading insects mentioned will be actively reproducing while they take shelter in your home. So you should not see populations expand as time passes, especially if you are diligent in keeping them scooped or vacuumed up. The sneakier insects that successfully find a place in your home to over winter may reemerge in early spring as the temperatures begin to rise, so scouting at those times is a good decision if you know they have been problematic in the past.
I know that many people have a fear of insects in the home. Though these fall and winter invasions can be worrisome, know that they are easy to control and are not dangerous to you or your loved ones.
Garden Talk is written by Kerry Stober of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES). She is housed at the C. Beaty Hanna Horticultural and Environmental Center, which is based at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. This column includes research based information from land-grant universities around the country, including Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities. Email questions to Kerry at KDS0010@aces.edu or call 205-879-6964 x19.
The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M University and Auburn University), is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Everyone is welcome!