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Possumhaw: Immigration or importation


Shannon Bardwell



"Don't let the small things bug you." 






This is not your pretty little innocuous storybook ladybug -- not at all. Sam got the call early one morning: "Can you come to the church and help vacuum the overhead lighting and the Sunday School rooms? We have an infestation of ladybugs." 


Sam was up and at 'um early the next morning. While at church the previous week I glanced up at the fluorescent fixtures. I noticed on the inside of the plastic cover were millions of ladybugs. Occasionally a ladybug would land on the shoulder of someone in front of me, then climb up their collar and onto their head. Ladybugs seemed harmless, so I wouldn't bother brushing them off. Once I did have a ladybug land in my coffee cup. 


Then Dickie said, "Girl, how come we have so many ladybugs? We didn't use to have all that many ladybugs. Why don't you do some research on that." 


And so, I did. You have to love that "girl." 


The domestic sweet ladybug causes few problems, but for a layperson it would be hard to tell the difference. The problem ladybug is actually an Asian lady beetle. The Asian cousin arrived by two means. In the 1990s the government imported Asian beetles to consume aphids on agricultural products like corn and soybeans. Some lady beetles may have stowed away on ships from the East and arrived in New Orleans. From thence they spread northward. 


The lady beetles imported by the government were not so successful at first, but by 1995 numbers had exploded. They were noticed in abundance in Georgia's pecan trees, the purpose for their importation. Lady beetles in their eastern habitat winter in the cracks and crevices of large pale-colored stones. When the critters arrived here they adapted to the light-colored siding of homes and other structures through cracks and crevices. The weather warms and, not sure which way to go, they very often end up where it's nice and warm inside the house, searching for food and water. If they don't find any, they perish in mass. Herein lies the problem. 


There are a few other problems with the Asian lady beetle that the domestic ladybug does not exhibit. When the lady beetle is threatened it will expel a tiny bit of yellowish blood. The blood has a foul odor, offending a predator or homeowner. This fluid can stain and in some cases cause allergies. The lady beetle can bite or pinch. 


Homeowners have reported sweeping the house daily of lady beetles, even to shaking out the bedcovers, and parents of "creepers" vacuuming carpets repeatedly to rid the area of the pests. 


Vacuuming is the preferred removal method. Only an insecticide will actually kill the lady beetle, and some suggest using the "bomb" method if possible. Then there's sealing every nook and cranny at the point of entry. One winter, using a pet store bug container, I exported mine to the greenhouse. Nuisance or not, the little critters are fascinating to watch.  



Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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