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Are a million ladybugs cuter than one? - (11/17/2020)

By Dr. Ron Gasbarro

Jim came into the pharmacy, looking befuddled. He said to the pharmacist, “Now that the weather has gotten colder, ladybugs are invading my daughter’s bedroom. But she thinks they are cute. She won’t let me remove them. Are they harmful? To me, it’s an insect invasion.”

Ladybugs – also known as the Japanese lady beetle – are so adorable that they have been memorialized on everything from backpacks to throw pillows to small cars. In the warmer months, they help get rid of other garden insects, especially destructive aphids. In general, that news means ladybugs are beneficial to humans. Yet, they can become a nuisance as the weather turns colder – especially if they invite eleventy-billion of their relatives. As the autumn leaves begin to fall, ladybugs start searching for a warm, dry place to spend the winter. Surprise! These cuties found a small opening in your house. Now there are so many, they warrant their own zip code. While these infestations are harmless, you probably still want to get rid of them. There is no need to spray Raid® all over the house when it comes to ladybugs. Because they leave a stain and an unpleasant smell if you squash them, suck them up with the vacuum and empty the dust cup or bag immediately. Also, they loathe certain smells. So use citronella, citrus, or potpourri around windows. Or plant chrysanthemums near doors and windows. 

A not-so-darling overwintering pest is the stinkbug. They come to feed on crops, then enter local homes to survive the winter. Stinkbugs are suitably named for the odor caused by their defense mechanism. People who decorate porches with jack-o'-lanterns should be especially watchful since stinkbugs enjoy snacking on wet pumpkin pulp. To get rid of them, pull out the Black Flag® and spray in a well-ventilated room. Patch up any holes or cracks where they can enter. 

As for spiders, most of them do not need to go inside your house to escape from winter because they are already there. They love obscure, secluded places, such as behind big appliances or in the attic. While many people panic when they see a house spider and run for the 20-pound unabridged dictionary to flatten them, most of these arachnids are harmlessly going for a walk. Some homeowners like to escort them outside, thinking they would get along better away from the family. Tragically, spiders that are far from their comfort zone will probably freeze to death. 

House spiders are hard-working houseguests. They dine on other more destructive bugs that enter your domicile. Houseflies, mosquitoes, and fleas are among their favorite fare. In fact, if you leave them alone, they will consume most of the other insects in your house. And they provide this service at no charge to you. Do you still have nightmares about spider attacks? They can be deterred from showing their furry spidey heads. They dislike certain substances like cinnamon, orange and lemon peels, and peppermint oil. You can also throw small sacks of cedar chips behind the fridge or a large bookcase, even under your bed. Or, put white vinegar in a spray bottle and spritz it on cracks around the house. If you are determined to eradicate spiders, the safest plan is to hire a professional because insecticides can be harmful to other living things such as children and pets. Speaking of pets, a cat will spend all day hunting down a house spider once it knows the spider is getting its mail delivered to your address. 

Jim decided that he would vacuum the ladybugs from his daughter’s room and deposit them in the field behind his house. That way, everyone – except maybe the ladybugs – would be happy.

Ron Gasbarro, PharmD, is a registered pharmacist, medical writer, and principal at Rx-Press.

 


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