Monday, November 16, 2009

An Imposter Amongst Us.

" Ladybird, ladybird fly away home,
Your house is on fire and your children are gone, "

Ladybugs or Ladybirds as they are called in England, were always considered a sign of luck, if one was to land on you.

As I am sitting here writing, there are three ladybugs (ladybirds) walking across the ceiling. These warmer than usual Autumn days, today 74 degrees would be a reasonable explanation for these cute little bugs to still be present, or so I thought.

After a fellow blogger also commented on the prolific presence of the ladybugs I started to wonder, why they are still hanging around the garden and now inside the house, daily.

It turns out that the true Ladybug bright red with spots with which we are all so familiar, is being threatened at an alarming rate, by an impostor Ladybug, The Harlequin Ladybug.

Harlequins are native to Asia but were introduced to the U.S. a quarter of a century ago to control aphid populations.
Since then they have become the country's most common species, threatening the survival of North American ladybirds and other aphid predators such as butterflies.

They were subsequently sold in continental Europe by biocontrol companies, and are believed to have arrived in Britain on plants from Holland, Belgium or France.
Unlike their red and black-spotted British counterparts, harlequins come in a rainbow of colours, most commonly orange and yellow.

They have up to 21 spots. They eat aphids, the staple diet of Britain's own ladybird species.
When those run out, they are happy to eat their competitors instead.
Even humans aren't exempt - Professor Majerus a scientist at the University of Cambridge England, said there were increasing reports of harlequins biting people in the late summer as they run out of food.

The Ladybugs have quickly become the Nuisance Pest of the Year, as thousands of Americans British and Canadians are being bombarded by and infested with ladybugs, in their homes.
As autumn approaches, the adult beetles leave their summer feeding sites in yards, fields and forests for protected places to spend the winter. Unfortunately, homes and buildings are one such location. Swarms of lady beetles typically fly to buildings in September though November depending on locale and weather conditions.
Beetle flights are heaviest on sunny days following a period of cooler weather, when temperatures return to at least the mid-60s. Consequently, most flight activity occurs in the afternoon and may vary in intensity from one day to the next.

Besides just being pesky, the Asian Lady Beetle also emits a distinct odor when they are disturbed (such as when you try to swat at them in your house) or when they gather in groups. They also can leave behind a yellowish liquid that can stain carpets or other surfaces.

Turns out they're not so "lucky" after all.
Photocredit: University of Cambridge


Anonymous said...

so sad and they used to be my fav bug.

BlueRidge Boomer said...

Thanks for stopping by......we live in the middle of Christmas tree fields and those little H.Ladybugs are clustering in the ceiling corners.....vacuuming the little buggers is a daily event......


Anonymous said...

Wow! I have never seen so many ladybugs. Check out how many there are on your house! I didn't realize that ladybugs also bite. We had many in our yard this year and when they landed on me, they actually were biting! While you are having 74 degree weather, we're having high 30 degrees. However, tomorrow, it's supposed to reach a balmy 52. :)

DeniseinVA said...

A fascinating post Jo. I have yet to be bitten by one and didn't see too many this summer. I have been wondering why.

donna baker said...

Two landed on me yesterday - so lucky or not? I once bought several thousand. They arrived via the mail in a burlap bag with instructions to keep in the refrigerator until ready to free. When I let them out in my garden, poof. Never saw them again, I think.

Betsy Banks Adams said...

Ugh Jo... We've had a swarm of ladybugs a couple of times since we moved here, but nothing much this year SO FAR. I despise those things--even though they are 'cute'... Have you ever killed one???? Don't smell it if you do that. It stinks!!!!

Keep those things out of your home. Good Luck.


Loree said...

That is so interesting. I did not realise that 'impostor' ladybirds existed.

Radka said...

Hello, Have a nice day. You have a nice blog. Radka.

Anonymous said...

We get a lot of those Harlequins. I love the traditional Ladybird. Good post.

Kipling said...

Luckily! or not as the case may be, we don't get to many greenfly, so we don't get to many Ladybirds either, here in not so sunny Ireland. We get some, but it's too wet I think. I can remember when we were back in the UK about the dangers of Colorado Beetle's! They look a bit like the one's you call Harlequins? I also remember that the number of spots was how old they were, or so we were told.

matron said...

We rarely see ladybirds were we live,something to do with the altitude i think as we are quite high up in the mountains.I have never come across the yellow or orange ones,glad i have't by the sound of them.

blushing rose said...

Oh, the joy we had playing with lady bugs as children. We used to talk to them & ask them for 'luck' ... loved watching them fly around.

Have a lovely day. TTFN ~Marydon

Nan said...

Am I the blogger you were referring to?:<) Oh, how I hate them.

Shakerwood said...

We have had this problem for about 7 years now....especially in my DS#2's room and the dining room which are on the sunny side of the house. I haven't thought they were cute for years now. Just a pain in the *****. Like when you are eating dinner and they fly in your face just as you are taking a bite of food! Can't wait for cooler weather so they will go away!

Winifred said...

I saw the warning about them last year. Luckily I haven't seen any. Ladybirds are not so prolific now can't remember seeing any this summer and yet there were thousands of aphids. Then again I was hardly in the garden it was so wet.

John's Arts & Crafts said...

Great Blog & Photos! New blog on the Hx. of the Ladybug:

George said...

Thanks for all the fascinating information about the lady bugs. We haven't had many so far this year, but in the past they have literally swarmed the sunny side of the house.

Dave Pie-n-Mash said...

I spent a long time being nice to those yellow asian beetles before I realised what they are. Now I just swap them. Can't heave them destroying our ladybirds can we?

M. L. said...

Thanks for that informative posting about Ladybugs and the imposters.

I once read that Ladybugs (and Daddy Longleg spiders) cannot live anywhere where there are dangerous chemicals.

Because of this I've always thought that seeing them (even in those unsightly swarms) is sort of a good sign.

Yes I've been bitten by one of the imposters. It wasnt too bad but I do miss being able to tell my children that a ladybug wont bite them.

Charm and Grace said...

What an extremely informative post. I think your blog is just lovely. I followed the link over from your comment on Barbara's (Ramblings from an English Garden) blog. I am loving reading and looking at all your photos. Thanks for sharing this ladybug/bird information.


Lepidoptera said...

Yes, a flock of these entered our abode one warm fall day. I have seen them hibernating inside the old church buildings in Cades Cove as well in the winter. A friend recently told me that they were originally from Japan and not true ladybugs. I am glad to learn more about these little beasties.

p.s. I found you through "A Life in Wakefield" and am glad that I did. :-)