Ladybug swarms bothersome to some, but welcomed by farmers

An infestation of ladybugs on the door of a vehicle seek shelter for the winter.

WINSTON COUNTY - Fall is here, along with colder temperatures. When the daytime highs reach the 60 degrees range, something else arrives, much to the chagrin of many folks: the ladybugs.
Homes in the area are subject to infestations of the small insect, which are looking for a place to nest for the coming winter after staying in fields and woods for summertime feeding. Ladybugs are not bugs, but beetles in the family of Coccinellidae and are also known as ladybird beetles. The specific species of ladybugs in this area of Alabama are commonly called Asian beetles and have a scientific name of Harmonia axyridis.
The outer shell of their body is called an elytra and open up to expose wings. While technically they cannot bite humans, their mandibles can pinch resembling a bite. Their defense mechanism is to emit a foul smelling and toxic liquid, yellow in color and called hemolymph, released when frightened. This is to deter birds and other predators and is called “reflex bleeding.”
Ladybugs were introduced to North America in 1916 when the USDA released thousands of them imported from Japan. According to newspaper reports, USDA records indicated 80,000 of them were released in Georgia in the early 1980s to control other insects such as aphids, which were destroying pecan orchards.
Most residents hate them, but farmers in the area like them because they are predators.


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