Don’t look now, here come the ladybugs

Deborah Allard

If you happen to notice a few, several or even hundreds of ladybugs congregating on your house, fear not, it’s not exactly an infestation. And, they’re not trying to get inside.

Actually, they’ve already been in, likely living with you all winter long, nestled in a dormant state in your home’s cracks and crevices, corners and nooks.

“What’s happening this time of year is they’re coming out of hibernation,” said Wayne Andrews, an entomologist at the Bristol County Mosquito Control unit in Taunton. “Some people are getting thousands.”

And, now that the ladybugs are out, they’re ravenous.

“They’ll all be hunting aphids,” Andrews said.

Aphids are minute plant-eating insects, which ladybugs adore and devour, helping to keep gardens green and healthy as they feast.

Andrews said this might explain why ladybugs are believed to bring good luck. The belief may have stemmed from farmers noticing that a year plentiful in ladybugs was a season of good harvest.

All cultures believe in the luck of the ladybug, according to several online sources. They’re believed in some countries to not only grow crops, but bring fair weather, romance, health and even children.

“They’re an important insect in the ecological kingdom,” Andrews said.

Whether the lore is true or false, these reddish-orange jewels are best known to entomologists as “multi-colored Asian lady beetles” or by their species name in the Northeast: “Harmonia axyridis.” Sometimes they’re called lady birds. And, there are some 5,000 species of the little insect.

Ladybugs can have varying numbers of black spots, 20 or none at all, according to Robert Childs, an entomologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst Plant, Soil and Insect Science Department.

“I’m getting more calls about them this year,” Childs said, adding that the phenomenon occurs every few years.

“They were brought in by the USDA for controlling aphids (years ago),” Childs said.

“They’re well established. Unfortunately for us, these Asian ladybugs like to get into houses,” Childs said.

It’s the warmth they seek, he said. Ladybugs are more attracted to light-colored houses, and even more so to houses on a hill without many trees around.

If they do get into the house, they’re harmless.

Lucky or not, the person who squashes a ladybug will be punished. The bug’s body fluids stain. Childs advises that it’s best to just put the little creatures back outside.

“They’re very beneficial,” Childs said.

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