Nancy Wiersma: Not really a bug, but a beetlePublished 9:36pm Thursday, September 27, 2012
This is my favorite season, autumn, with its temperamental weather, warm one minute and cool the next. And then it might be sunny and the next cloudy.
The rain, wind, cool temperatures, apples, squash, root vegetables, soups and end-of-season garden sales are all to be enjoyed. But what can be rather a nuisance this time of year is the blasted multicolored ladybug (Harmonia axyridis), who really, after all, is not really a bug but a beetle.
I have not seen any this year, so I wonder if the weather had anything to do with that. This beetle was introduced into the United States by the USDA as a form of pest control, which sort of backfired. Eventually, they spread and became pests. In some areas, it has displaced the rarer native ladybug species.
Adults congregate in large swarms in the fall, seeking the warmer south sides of homes, buildings and other surfaces.
They like a nice warm spot indoors for winter hibernation. When messed with, they have been known to bite, and they exude a smelly, yellow-orange fluid in defense, which can and will stain anything it comes into contact with. These beetles resume feeding in the spring, later laying eggs, which are oval in shape, yellow and laid upright in clusters.
The larvae feed for as many as three weeks, then they pupate — looking like tiny alligators — congregating on plant stems and leaves.
Both adults and their young feed on aphids and other soft-bodied insects. Bugs have sucking mouthparts and feed on fluids. Beetles have biting mouthparts tear their food. This is the difference between bugs and beetles.
Well, I guess they are not all bad. Their preferred feeding site is up in a tree, but they can also be found feasting on and cleaning up insects amongst crop and ornamental foliage as well.
To prevent these beetles from entering in the fall, tightly seal windows and other potential entry sites. But who do you know who has an air-tight perfectly sealed home?
They do find a way to get in — one way or another. If they are inside already, the quickest and least toxic way to clean them is to simply vacuum them up.
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