Got ladybugs? You aren’t alone

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 10, 2007

VIDALIA — Some say that they’re an omen of good luck, and others say they’re a nuisance, but chances are just about everyone in town has at least one ladybug living in their house right now.

But though they may be annoying, there isn’t really any reason to kill them.

“They definitely do not cause any harm,” Natchez gardener Karen Dardick said. “Ladybugs are definitely a beneficial insect.”

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In a garden, the ladybug can help control predator insect species, Dardick said.

“My main concern in the garden is with aphids, and the ladybug larvae consume aphids in the spring,” she said.

The Asian Lady Beetle — the most common ladybug in this area — was introduced to the region in the 1980s by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to do just that after aphids began to cause significant damage to pecan crops.

Though the USDA eventually concluded that their attempts to transplant the species from northeastern Asia had failed, the beetles took hold in New Orleans and eventually worked their way throughout much of the country.

The tendency of the ladybugs to make a beeline for the closest warm homestead to hibernate for the winter is somewhat unique to the area, Dardick said.

“When I lived in California, they wouldn’t do that,” she said. “They would hibernate in the higher mountain areas, and we would buy them.”

Because the insects release a powerful odor when they are crushed, the only reliable way to round them up without using chemicals is with a vacuum cleaner.

But the best defense against these otherwise harmless pests is a good offense.

“Try to seal up all the little openings in your house,” Dardick said.