Ladybugs Swarming Southern US: Hordes Of Insects Invading Homes To Escape The Cold

By Josh Lieberman on October 31, 2013 3:27 PM EDT

ladybug
In the southern United States, ladybugs are swarming houses in greater numbers than usual. (Photo: Flickr: tinali778)

Ladybugs swarming houses as the weather drops is not uncommon, but this year the southern United States is experiencing a larger than usual onslaught, especially in Tennessee. The ladybug swarm is the result of what David Cook, a Tennessee entomologist, called "a perfect insect storm," brought on by weather conditions that have driven the ladybug population up -- and indoors. 

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Ladybugs populations are larger than usual in the south due to a warm and moist summer, ideal conditions for ladybugs to reproduce. This year also saw a plentiful population of wooly aphids, which ladybugs feast on. So the ladybug population grew, and now that cold has set in, ladybug swarms are making their ways indoors seeking warmth.

"There were probably one million of them," said one homeowner in Lebanon, Tenn, who was fortunate enough to have them stay outside her house. "They were all over the porch, the far side of the house, everything was covered....We were really shocked."

Ladybugs are attracted to brightly-colored homes, and once they pick their target they make their way into cracks and crevices. Sometimes they'll just stay there, but sometimes they'll make their way indoors. Caulking cracks and crevices can help keep ladybug swarms at bay. 

The good news is that ladybug swarms aren't in any way dangerous; unlike, say, termites, ladybugs won't eat away at anything. But nobody wants a swarm of anything in their home, so for that reason they've been a nuisance to people in the south. About the worst things about a swarm of ladybugs is that it can leave behind an unpleasant odor (like "rancid peanut butter") and they can stain. 

"If agitated or squashed, the beetles may exhibit a defensive reaction known as 'reflex bleeding,' in which a yellow fluid with an unpleasant odor is released from leg joints," according to the UDSA. "This reaction generally prevents predators, such a birds, from eating lady beetles. But in the home, the fluid may stain walls and fabrics."

For those reasons, it's better to vacuum up ladybugs rather than killing them with a fly swatter. The upside is that you won't have to be vaccuuming them up for long: the ladybug invasion should only last for a week or two. And even though ladybugs swarming into homes is a bit agitating, it pales in comparison to the South's recent spate of freewheeling herpes-infected monkeys, stucco-wall-destroying giant snails and television-eating crazy ants.   

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