Ladybird Beetles and Their Evil Twin MALB and Solutions
Last week I was sitting at a bench at Malabar Farms and a lady recognized me and started talking. She asked me a question about this supposed friendly insect. It seems that there are a number of them that over-wintered that she discovered that she needed removed. She had wondered what she could do. Over the years I have encountered a non-native insect which looks like an off-colored lady bug. The first time I encountered this insect I was helping my brother fix up one of his upstairs rooms. We scooped these pests into buckets and the smell was terrible. He had just planned to start fixing it up for one of my nephews who was just coming back from the hospital. My youngest nephew graduated from high school 3 years ago.
The familiar relative of this Asiatic beetle is the Ladybird Beetle. This European native would descend on a garden ridding your garden of insect pest like various aphids. Catholic gardeners attributed Mary the Mother of Jesus answering their prayers and gave the insect the name the bug of our Lady Mary or much later the Ladybug. Ladybugs do not bite and are mostly red in the background of their shell.
MALBs are an acronym for Multi-colored Asiatic Ladybird Beetle. These insects must overwinter in areas that they can crawl into hide, like walls that are not well sealed or rooms that are not used much during the winter where the window is not sealed. These insects have been imported to pursue and destroy an Asian Soyabean aphid that could stress our harvest of soya beans for that year. As I have been dealing with these insects over the years I have been developing techniques that seem to be effective. The first thing I want you to be aware of is that this insect bites, larger than the ladybug, can have any number of spots either black or red, have any number of shades of orange background on the shell, has a terrible smell, secret a black compound from their legs that can stain about anything, can trigger an asthma attack in certain people, eat grapes, and move in great masses of population on occasion that have their own scents.
Most of this column is from personal experience. Once you have discovered the insects where they should not be, it’s too late. This really means that your house or whatever space you are trying to protect just is not sealed. The first thing you need to do is seal the cracks and crevices with caulk in your building from the outside much better than it has been by finding where the insects came into the house. Window screens and doors need to fit tightly with weather stripping. Insects are cold blooded so you should focus on the south side and west side of the building. Over the years I have learned that you don’t want to crush this little lady beetle, for the smell and the stains that they leave on just about everything that they touch. If your building is not sealed up then you will be fighting the insects again, and that also means that an insecticide will only kill the ones that have found their way into your house. Insecticides are only effective with this beetle when they are directly under the spray. For me I have used vacuums with the hose attachment and sucked them through the hose and into the vacuum. What I did wrong the first time is that as the insects were crushed inside the vacuum and the smell was terrible. I learned the hard way that you need to borrow nylon knee high hose from some lady and have a pouch inside the 2 sections of the wand for the vacuum. Unload the beetles as they fill the hose inside the wand. There is a repellent available to be applied to the side of your home, which I haven’t tested.