Ladybugs swarm the South in 'perfect insect storm'

The ladybug population has skyrocketed in the Southern U.S.
By Caroline Lee  |  Oct. 31, 2013 at 12:28 PM
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(UPI) -- Record numbers of ladybugs are swarming swaths of the South.

The multi-colored Asian Lady Beetles usually surface around this time of year -- just after the first cold snap -- but weather conditions have caused the population to soar.

"We have perfect weather conditions, and a large food population," said David Cook, an entomologist.

"This is a perfect insect storm."

Ladybugs typically swarm as they look to find somewhere to ride out the winter months. The past few winters have been unusually mild in the South, though, and the ladybug population has grown.

The ladybug population is usually harmless, but in large enough quantities, they become a nuisance.

“Any insect becomes a pest when it gets in an area where you don’t want them,” said Dan Cassidy, owner of a Murfreesboro, Tenn., pest control company. “They look for a good place to go over winter. Our homes and buildings make a good place to do that.”

The bugs are beneficial for controlling plant pests like aphids, but once inside homes they cause problems. Their "reflex bleeding," which they use to prevent predators from eating them, stains walls, fabrics and paint. They also attract other insects, including spiders.

Harvey Cotten, Chief Horticulturist at Huntsville Botanical Gardens in Alabama, said best way to get rid of the beetles is not to swat them.

"They will stain if you try to kill them -- they actually exude an orange blood, as it were, and it does smell bad. So if you're trying to get rid of them, use a vacuum cleaner; don't try and swat at them," Cotten said.

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