Friday, October 26, 2001

Ladybeetles descend on area

They're feasting on a bumper crop of soybean aphids

By Randy McNutt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Call it the Invasion of the Ladybeetles.

        The multicolored insects — considered beneficial because they feed on mites and other harmful pests — are now moving across the Tristate and into many homes, to the delight of bored indoor cats but irritation of homeowners.

        “I have never seen those kinds of ladybeetle numbers in soybean fields in my entire life,” said Joe Kovach of Ohio State University's Integrated Pest Management Program. “The beetles were quite happy this year.”

        The reason for their proliferation: the soybean aphid, which was first found in Ohio last year. Aphids are now present in large numbers in soybean fields, providing an Ohio Aphid Festival this fall for hungry ladybeetles.

        Though similar, the Asian ladybeetle is of a different variety than the familiar “ladybugs” that Ohioans grew up with, said Greg Meyer, a Warren County extension agent.

        “It was introduced from Japan originally and released into the South to take care of the insect problem,” he said. “But over time, the ladybeetle has developed a resistance to colder weather and has kept coming north.”

        They like to crawl on the sunny sides of the house or on inside walls that feel warm, Mr. Meyer said.

        Actually, Asian ladybeetles were introduced in Ohio in 1980, when only 1,800 were released to attack mites and other insects that harm crops. Today, the ladybeetles' population in Ohio is estimated in the billions, said Don Eberwine, a horticultural program assistant at the Butler County OSU Extension office in Hamilton.

        To discourage them from entering your home, Mr. Eberwine recommends that you:

        • Caulk spaces around the house where insects can enter.

        • Use insecticides around windows, doors and eaves.

        • Set black-light traps.


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