By Corey Poole
It may have been the most terrifying car ride I’ve ever been on. I was reminded of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 horror film, The Birds.
Last month I jumped in my car to go to the post office on Keyser Avenue. As I’m driving down the five-lane road, I noticed a ladybug crawling across my windshield. To my surprise it was on the inside. Then I noticed another one crawling across my dashboard. Glancing to my right, I was shocked to see my side-view mirror was swarming with the little red bugs.
When I parked at the post office and opened my door, lady bugs rained down on me. Only these weren’t the lady bugs I’m used to. They were more yellow than red and the majority of them were missing their spots. I inspected my car and realized there were lady bugs in every crevice of my car doors, in the air vents and pretty much every other nook and cranny.
It was like the saying, “I had sand in places I didn’t even know existed.” These innocent lady bugs had taken over my car. And not just mine, but my husband’s truck as well. We are still dealing with this infestation. I’m constantly having to roll down my car window, scoop a bug off my dashboard or windshield and throw it outside. They’re even encroaching on our home.
While scanning the internet for news today I came across an LSU AgCenter article written by Bruce Schultz. Schultz writes that an invasive insect species, the variegated Asian lady beetle, is now showing up in Louisiana.
The following is Schultz’s article:
This particular ladybug came to Louisiana in 1988, possibly from a shipping container.
“It is not a native species,” LSU AgCenter entomologist Chris Carlton said. “In Louisiana, we have at least 75 species of ladybugs, and most are native. No one really knows how it got here.”
By the early 1990s, Carlton said, the species was found throughout the U.S., and it displaced many native ladybugs.
The invasive species has 30-40 different color variations, with and without spots.
Most ladybugs prefer natural habitats, but this one prefers man-made structures for overwintering shelter, he said.
So far, efforts to predict the ladybug populations have been futile. “We have an extremely hard time predicting numbers of insects from one year to the next,” Carlton said.
And the occurrence is spotty. Carlton said he’s only seen one in his house in Baton Rouge, but he came upon thousands north of Baton Rouge.
The insect can bite, although it has no stinger or venom. They bite using sharp mouth parts that are used to pierce the skin of aphids, their preferred prey.
“They’re just probing,” Carlton said. “It’s like a microscopic needle prick.”
The ladybugs are active in winter during warm spells and are adapted to cold winters.
Houses can be protected against the insects by sealing homes, Carlton said, but he can’t recommend any chemical treatments.
Smashing the insects usually results in an unpleasant odor. Pest control companies could spray for the insect, but it’s probably not justifiable, Carlton said. “It’s not a harmful beast. It’s just an annoyance.”