I like ladybugs as much as the next person. Finding one inside your home is said to be a sign of good luck. But I like a few of them, not a virtual infestation. Last fall, several dozen enjoyed free room and board in one of my bedrooms, all of them snoozing in the corners of my ceiling.
I’m not being fair about the free board part since my ladybugs didn’t eat a thing. That’s not to imply there’s nothing snack-worthy because I can fed a small nation with what falls off the kitchen counters.
With help from the Internet, I discovered these cute little Volkswagen-shaped insects are fascinating critters. The North Carolina College of Agriculture states that ladybugs, or Multicolored Asian Ladybeetles, were imported into the United States from Asia in the late 1970s. Since they feed on over 50 species of aphids, they’re a good bug to have around. I only WISH they ate human food. My kitchen floor would be much cleaner.
Ladybeetles – a rather emasculating title for the males – congregate twice a year, in spring and in fall when they gather to find shelter from the cold. In their native Asia, they’re drawn to light-colored limestone, which is why they choose my sunny west-facing room.
I’m no gardener, but I do appreciate the benefits of ladybugs in a vegetable and flower bed. Want to store your ladybugs for the winter and release them into your gardens and window boxes next spring? The N.C. College recommends that you make a bag out of cheesecloth, about the size of a half-gallon milk jug. Toss in some dried grass or wood chips.
After collecting the ladybugs with the edge of a funnel, gently drop them into the cheesecloth bag. Refrigerate, but don’t freeze or you’ll end up with Bugscicles. From now until spring, take them out of the fridge once or twice a month and let them warm up for a few hours. They’re hardy enough to withstand temperature fluctuations in nature although shouldn’t be left out too long as they’ll burn off their fat reserves and die.
When warmed and starting to crawl, mist them with a bit of water. To prevent chilling, make sure they’re dry before returning them to the fridge. I suggest using a monogrammed guest towel for best results.
When spring arrives, let them warm up again. Place the bag of bugs in your recliner and download a move, something like A Bug’s Life or Antz, before releasing them into your garden where they’ll make quick work of aphids and other pests.
For this year’s visit, I’ll launch an Airbnb for them, specifically an Airbug. Guests this quiet and low-maintenance, I want back year after year.
By the way, if you actually follow my recipe for preserving your bugs, I figure you’ve got too much free time. How about coming over and cleaning my kitchen floor!