The Asian lady beetle

By T. Jewell Collins

There have been a fair number of Asian lady beetles sharing my Maine farmhouse of late. I find them clustered in the corners of south-facing windows.Although their correct name is Asian lady beetle, they’re also known as the multi-colored Asian ladybird beetle, the multi-colored Asian ladybug, and even Hallowe’en beetle.

I recently found three of (your choice of name) in the upper right hand corner of my kitchen window. Wondering if they might be thirsty, I dripped water from the end of my forefinger onto the pane of glass. One by one they left their cozy corner and proceeded to imbibe at the edges of the drops that were ready to run down the windowpane.

Later, this discovery was confirmed while I was dining at a local restaurant. A lady beetle flew onto the rim of my tall glass of iced water. Upon noticing this, my companion immediately said, “Oh, I’ll have the waitress bring you another glass.”

With a wave of my hand, I summarily dismissed her well-meant offer. “She’s just thirsty,” I replied, drawing on my previous observations. After she had inched her way down the straw and I had given her enough time to drink, I put the straw to my lips, drawing down the water level another quarter of an inch. She paused, and then eased downward another quarter of an inch, too!

I have been told that lady beetles can survive inside a house if they have water. However, I don’t think I’m going to put droplets of water in the corners of my windows to test this theory further. Imagine a house full of lady beetles each with its own filling station!

Upon returning home from the restaurant, I sought advice on the Internet for managing lady beetles in the home. I learned that they were introduced into New England some years ago to control aphids and other small insects. They are harmless and therefore should not be squashed or made to feel less than at home in the corners of my windows.

However, when multiples of 30, or 40 or more, are discovered taking up residence in your home, you, as primary resident, are justified in sweeping them into a plastic bag and shaking them out in a wooded location several miles away. Would they have enough endurance to find another home to inhabit? Well, I guess so, since their native habitat is southeastern Asia, and they managed to find their way to my windows in Maine!

Counting and tabulating their black dots, ranging from none to 20, on their pumpkin-orange or mustard-yellow backs can be an interesting pastime. You might try lining up the lady beetles numerically, according to the number of dots on each one. Tweezers and a strip of flypaper are recommended for this exercise.

Despite differences in background color and number of spots, they share a distinguishing mark on the pronotum — that small section that separates the head from the abdomen. Our more familiar domestic ladybugs lack this feature.

The Asian lady beetles awaken out of hibernation when the temperature where they are hibernating reaches near 50 degrees F., usually in late winter, as the days get longer. Then they cluster in windows with a southern exposure and settle down to enjoy the warmth of the sun — and droplets of water provided by a sympathetic resident.

My research didn’t make reference to an Asian “gentleman” beetle, but according to my junior high science class, and what I have learned since then, there would have to be gentlemen beetles in order to propagate the species. The male “lady” beetle, has to swallow his pride and accept the entomological term “lady” beetle even if it injures his pride.

T. Jewell Collins is a resident of Harrison.

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