**Today’s installment of Nature in Your Backyard is brought to you by Addie Jackson, a senior at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. She’s a student in the Science Communication Seminar, led by NCSSM Dean of Science, Dr. Amy Sheck.**
While at home over winter break, I woke up in the middle of the night to a startling sensation of something crawling on me. After frantically jumping up and turning on enough lights to illuminate my entire front yard, I discovered the source: two ladybugs taking a stroll across my arm.
Ladybugs – particularly a kind called the multicolored Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis) — have been invading homes all over the eastern seaboard this fall and winter. The multicolored Asian lady beetle is an invasive species that established in the United States through a series of planned and unplanned introduction events over the last hundred years. Some may have accidentally arrived as hitchhikers on ships traveling from Asia to US ports. Multiple times throughout the 20th century, the US government intentionally imported and released multicolored Asian lady beetles into the environment to combat insect pests in trees and agricultural fields. Populations of this species are now well-established in the eastern US, Midwest and Pacific Northwest.
But why were multicolored Asian lady beetles crawling around on me in the dead of night?
Multicolored Asian lady beetles hibernate under the siding and shingles of our homes during winter, seeking protection from the cold temperatures. They can sneak through cracks and crevices to enter our homes; often we find them clustering together in large groups in attics, basements and areas between our walls. We especially notice them when they invade our living spaces (like my bedroom!), drawn in by the warm temperatures.
The good news is that the multicolored Asian lady beetle won’t feed on your couch, your pets, or your walls. In fact, they are not eating anything when they are in hibernation mode; they are living off of their own body fat. Of course, they may crunch and stink a bit if you squash them — And some people are actually quite allergic to them.
So, next time you see a small troupe of ladybugs crawling around, or feel them crawling on you, maybe you can help them find their way outside – and then seal up the cracks and crevices of your house to keep them from coming back in!
Header photo credit: Multicolored Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis), Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources – Forestry Archive, Bugwood.org
Addie Jackson is a senior at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, completing a seminar on Science Communication. As a student, she tries to learn and explore as much as possible. She is currently making college decisions, which is making her want to hibernate, like the multicolored Asian lady beetle.