Ladybugs Swarming Southern United States, Mild Weather Causes ‘Perfect Insect Storm’

  @ZoeMintzz.mintz@ibtimes.com on October 31 2013 10:37 AM

Ladybugs can’t get enough of the Deep South.

Swarms of the red and black insects have appeared in Tennessee and northern Alabama. David Cook, an entomologist, says the ladybug population has skyrocketed, News Channel 5 reports.

"We have perfect weather conditions, and a large food population," Cook said. "This is a perfect insect storm."

Asian lady beetles, also known as ladybugs, usually swarm after the year’s first bout of cold weather as they look for a warm place to spend the winter months. But since the past few winters have been unseasonably mild, the ladybug population has grown, Dan Cassidy, owner of The Bug Man pest control company in Murfreesboro, Tenn., told the Tennessean of Nashville.

While ladybugs don’t pose a threat to humans or the environment, but they can be bothersome, especially when they get into homes.  

“Any insect becomes a pest when it gets in an area where you don’t want them,” Cassidy said. “They look for a good place to go over winter. Our homes and buildings make a good place to do that.”

Diane Stroud of Lebanon, Tenn., says the tiny bugs have swarmed around her home.

"There were probably 1 million of them," Stroud said. "They were all over the porch, the far side of the house, everything was covered."

“They will stain if you try to kill them. They actually exude an orange blood, as it were, and it does smell bad, so if you’re trying to get rid of them, use a vacuum cleaner. Don't try and swat at them," Harvey Cotton, chief horticulturist at Alabama’s Huntsville Botanical Gardens, told WAAY.

The multicolored Asian lady beetle was introduced to the United States in 1916, to control insect pests. But it was only in 1988 when insect populations were found in New Orleans. The insects are considered a “mixed blessing” since they are effective at controlling plant pests like aphids, but they can be a nuisance in homes where their “reflex bleeding,” meant to prevent predators from eating them, stains walls and fabrics. Cassidy adds that dead ladybugs become food for less desirable creatures like spiders and silverfish.

The United States Department of Agriculture recommends properly caulking cracks and crevices to prevent ladybugs from nesting there in the winter. Sweeping and vacuuming are the most effective methods of removing the beetles.

Entomologists predict the ladybug population won’t be as large next year. "It will get worse before it gets better," Cook said. “We will need a couple of good, hard freezes to get rid of them."

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