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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Death to LadyBugs

I have nothing against ladybugs.  Kids love them and sing about them, and they aren't destructive if they get into your home.  So my jaw dropped last week when I drove past a local exterminator's office and saw the sign on the side of their building.  They had declared ladybugs as the pest of the month for September.  So, of course, I doubled-back and took a photo of the sign with my phone so that I could share my consternation with my readers.

A local exterminator apparently has declared war on ladybugs in general.  I've obscured the company's full name to avoid a potential nuisance lawsuit for publicly embarrassing them with this photo.
Most semi-serious gardeners know that ladybugs are the best natural means around for controlling aphids in the garden.  And that goes for any species of ladybug found in North America, and there are several ladybug species living here in North America.  There are, however, a few species of lady bugs now found in North America that did not originate here.  Unlike some of our other, more notorious, insect pests today (e.g. brown marmorated stink bug and Japanese beetle) which hitched a ride to the States via cargo ship, thMulticolored Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis) was purposely introduced in the U.S. by none other than the United States Department of Agriculture between 1979 and 1981 to help control aphids.  However, the current populations of the Asian ladybugs are thought to have been supplemented by stowaways in shipping containers coming from Asia into the port of New Orleans.

Regardless of the particular species of ladybug that you find around your home, or congregating on your window screens at this time of year, ladybugs are not going to chew holes in your wool coats or infest your flour and other grain products in your pantry.  If a swarm of the multicolored Asian lady beetle does find its way into your home, shame on you for having uncaulked openings through which you have been losing heat in the winter.  I hear they can stink if you crush them, so try to exercise some restraint if they do move inside of your home.  Experts typically say that the best way of dealing with the Asian ladybugs is simply to prevent them from getting though the cracks into your home.  Caulk any gaps where utilities go through your wall and around where the window trim meets the siding on your home.

If thousands of any kind of lady beetles make it into your attic or the space between the studs in your house walls, an insecticide is that last thing that you want to use.  If you have an exterminator treat the voids in the walls and treat your attic and wherever else the ladybugs might want to congregate for warmth in the fall and winter, you will be left with thousands of ladybug carcasses in those inaccessible spaces.  The next bug to move in would be carpet beetles as then begin to feast on the dead ladybugs.  That's the real problem, because after the carpet beetles have eaten their fill of dead lady bugs they will move on to the woolen coats in your closets, the dry goods in your pantry, and even dry dog food.  So if you are concerned about any ladybugs you see in your house, it's already too late to exclude them.  So you might just want to live with them (or suck them up with a shop vac).

I would hope that most exterminators are more straightforward in their marketing efforts than to deliberately imply that all bugs of a certain taxonomic family are deserving of extermination, when, in fact, a few specific species can be a mere annoyance.  Indiscriminately applying chemical pesticides to eliminate bugs that are no real threat to human health or property seems reckless to me -- and rather immoral.

The motto, "Better living through chemistry," began to go out of vogue in the 1960s.  The 60s ushered in a lot of enlightenment that now seems like common sense.  For example, starting in 1968, new cars were required to be equipped with safety belts.  In 1964 the Surgeon General's report was published stating that smoking cigarettes is harmful to one's health.  And in 1962, Rachel Carson's best seller, Silent Spring, was published and warned of the cumulative toxic effects of pesticides in our environment.  Avoiding pesticides and most herbicides in my yard seems totally logical to me.  So when anyone questions me as to why I try to keep a chemical-free yard, I think of my little friend who I bumped into while mulching around my deck on Saturday.  This little guy (below) and his family appreciate that I don't use pesticides around my house and yard.  And he and his family return the favor by keeping the bug population around my patio in check.  Thanks buddy.

I keep a clay dish filled with rainwater under a bush at the side of my deck so that my toad friends can cool off while they chow down on insects around my deck and patio.

1 comment:

  1. By the way everyone, I just changed the Comments setting for his blog to allow comments from anyone, not just those with a Google account. Feel free to chime in. Except for my brother in law. He never has anything useful to say.