I would like to start this article by introducing myself to you, the people of Leaven-worth County.
My name is Mike Epler, and I'm your new Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent at the Kansas State University Research and Extension Office in Leavenworth. I'm one of the newest residents of your county, as I just moved here this summer. I hope this article is the first of many I'll write for the newspapers in order to keep you informed of horticultural and agricultural issues that we're facing here in northeast Kansas.
I grew up in southeast Kansas on a farm near Columbus. I majored in agronomy at Kansas State University and graduated in May of 2007. The areas of interest that I'm responsible for in my job include crops, livestock, horticulture and any other natural resources we deal with here. Now I'll and start the educational portion of this article. Also, I congratulate and thank you if you've managed to read this far without turning the page or falling asleep!
Today I'm talking about a problem we're probably all seeing this fall. Our current major insect pest is quite familiar to most of us, as it is a lady beetle (or lady bug). Before you decide though that all lady beetles are simply irritating, listen to this: The one that keeps coming into your house and flying around your lights for hours until you find it dead is not the usual lady beetle that is admired by horticulturists. I'll repeat that: It is not the regular lady beetle that you keep finding in your house this fall. Instead, it is known as an Asian lady beetle. The Asian lady beetle is not beneficial and does not eat the harmful bugs that may infest your plants.
All lady beetles tend to form clusters for overwintering, Asian lady beetles however, tend to do it in and around buildings, especially light-colored ones. Once several beetles have found an attractive site, they will emit a chemical signal to bring in their friends. Unfortunately for you, their friends can number in the tens or hundreds of thousands. They are looking for nooks and crannies to hide in and will get into a house if they find a path.
The beetles can also pinch when they land on bare skin. Fortunately, they are unable to break the skin's surface. Another annoying aspect of the insects is that they emit an orange colored, foul-smelling liquid when they are crushed or disturbed. The orange-colored juice they release (which essentially is their blood) will stain the surface they're on, so think twice before you get mad and smash one.
Control of the insects is difficult. The best method is to prevent them from entering the house. Caulking or plugging cracks and other openings will help keep them out, but it won't stop them from trying.
Beetles that make it into the house can be vacuumed up, as long as you remove and seal the bag if the bugs were still alive, otherwise they may crawl back out.
Some insecticides can be helpful to use as a perimeter around the house. Examples of products that can be used include bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, deltamethrin, esfenvalerate and tralomethrin. The trade names of these chemicals vary, so check the label of the product and make sure it contains one of the aforementioned active ingredients.
If you have any questions about Asian lady beetles, or any other plant, animal, or insect problems, feel free to contact me at the Leavenworth County Extension Office on the corner of Hughes and Eisenhower roads in Leavenworth, or call (913) 250-2300.