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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Ladybug, Ladybird, Japanese beetle, fly away home.

Ladybug, Ladybug, fly away home
Your house is on fire and your children are gone,
All except one,
Sweet Charlotte Ann,
And she hid under the frying pan. (~Nancy Drew, Ghost of Thornton Hall)

Oh my goodness the ladybugs are aggressive this year. Well, to be more precise, the Japanese beetles are taking over. I would post a photo of my south-east facing bedroom window to demonstrate just how many bugs we have, but I wouldn’t want to gross anyone out. It’s obscene.
We have had one or two hangers-on over the winter but as soon as it started to warm up and the sun really began to beat down on the window, those two put out their signals, their sonar and their scent and attracted others. By the dozens. I vacuumed them up every day, sprayed the window frames with bleach cleaner, and the next day they were back. In bigger numbers.
It was obvious we had a problem when the bugs ran us out of our room. It had been a busy few days and I hadn’t had time to vacuum. By nightfall on the third day, the bugs were binging around the room like blind bats, smashing into things in their panic to get to the light at our bedside tables. We tried turning the lights out and going to sleep. Because I had inadvertently left my closet light on, the bugs had left their window and gathered up on the ceiling around the heat of the bulb. When I added the soft glow of the bedside lamps, it started them moving around the room.
As soon as we turned the lights out, the bugs began dive bombing us in bed. Then I felt one crawling up my leg. Under the sheets. And one on my face. That was it. We picked up our pillows and went to the spare room, shutting the door on our bedroom and sacrificing it to the bugs.
The next day I sat down to research ladybugs. Or Japanese beetles. They choose a sunny, warm, south-facing window in which to reside until it is warm enough to head outside. They do call their friends, by way of the pungent odour that they emit. This smell is strong enough to call other bugs from miles away, apparently. If you believe what you read on the Internet.
Most ladybugs have enough energy stored up during the summer to sustain themselves through the winter. They just need water. Sitting in that sunny window all day without water will just dehydrate them. That’s how most of them die: dried up little shells of former lady beetles on my window sill. And that’s why we occasionally find one or two intrepid explorers in the bathroom. They are looking for water.
So you can put a small bowl of water on the window sill, for the ladybugs. If you put a drop of soap in it, they won’t be able to get back out, and they will drown. After reading about these amazing little creatures, however, I wasn’t too excited about killing them all.
The most humane way to get rid of them, of course, is to use a shop vac and then empty the live bugs outside. But if it’s cold outside they will die anyway.
Someone has made little ladybug houses and sells them online. I found myself wondering if that would actually work. Could we co-exist with the Japanese beetles? I need one of those ladybug houses. You put a little cup of water inside, without the soap, and they are happy in their little wooden chalet all winter, on your window sill.
I stood in front of the window today and counted my ladybugs. Twenty-five in the sun, fifteen in the sudsy water of the death bowl. The natural deterrents such as clove and garlic did not work – but they did make my room smell interesting. I didn’t try moth balls. I don’t think that would be safe to breathe in.
I think there are definitely less ladybugs each day than the day before. It’s getting warm enough for them to go outside, where they can eat the aphids off my rose bushes – and be eaten, in turn, by the robins pulling worms beside the sprouting peonies.
It’s a rather macabre ecosystem we live in, but I think I have our little slice of it under control, for now. I need one of those ladybug houses. Pardon me while I go fetch my vacuum.

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