Lady­bug, lady­bug, fly away home – please! Bit­ing la­dy­bugs in­vade Pic­tou County

The News (New Glasgow) - - FRONT PAGE - BY SAM MAC­DON­ALD

An un­wel­come, colour­ful creepy crawly has re­cently be­come the bane of many res­i­dents of Pic­tou County in the past few days.

Since the end of Septem­ber, swarms of bugs known as the Asian har­le­quin la­dy­bee­tle have de­scended on the area. The Asian har­le­quin la­dy­bee­tle re­sem­bles the na­tive lady­bug with a more or­ange-like colour and slightly dif­fer­ent colour pat­terns on its body.

Un­for­tu­nately, their ap­pear­ance is where most of their sim­i­lar­i­ties end.

The Asian har­le­quin la­dy­bee­tle has a habit of clus­ter­ing in large num­bers – and is known to bite. To the fur­ther frus­tra­tion of many peo­ple in Pic­tou County, they pro­duce a foul odour when crushed, so even dis­pos­ing of them is a trou­ble­some mat­ter.

Colleen Mac­Don­ald, was vis­it­ing friends in Meik­le­field when she had a par­tic­u­larly un­pleas­ant en­counter with a num­ber of the bugs. While watch­ing over a num­ber of chil­dren out­side, she ended up hav­ing a cou­ple of them fly into her mouth, forc­ing her to im­me­di­ately spit them out.

“There were a lot of them around – it was crazy,” said Mac­Don­ald. “I asked a few peo­ple about them, and some peo­ple saw them as far away as Salt Springs.”

John Klymko, a zo­ol­o­gist with the At­lantic Canada Con­ser­va­tion Data Cen­tre said the Asian har­le­quin la­dy­bee­tle ag­gre­gates in large groups around build­ings around the fall, seek­ing win­ter shel­ter – they even­tu­ally emerge from where they stow them­selves away in the spring.

Klymko con­sid­ers the bee­tles a prob­lem be­cause their ap­pear­ance in the Mar­itimes, and other parts of Canada co­in­cides with the de­cline and dis­ap­pear­ance of na­tive species of la­dy­bee­tle.

A sim­i­lar dy­namic took place, Klymko noted, when the trans­verse la­dy­bee­tle – a species na­tive to the Mar­itimes – was sup­planted by the seven-spot­ted la­dy­bee­tle. The trans­verse la­dy­bee­tle very quickly be­came a spe­cial con­cern species after the seven-spot­ted la­dy­bee­tle ap­peared.

“I think Pic­tou County is in­fested with these things,” wrote Mar­lene David­son, a reader who com­mented on a Face­book post by the News that fea­tured a pic­ture of the bee­tles swarm­ing the tire of a car.

“They just seem to swarm you out of nowhere, once the heat of the sun hits them.”

“(I) couldn’t even go out­side with­out let­ting half a dozen of them into the house,” wrote Linda Wind­sor.

Bob Parker, co-owner of West River Green­house, de­scribed him­self as “no ex­pert on them,” but re­called that the bee­tles showed up in Pic­tou County about a decade ago.

“I call them lady­bug-looka­likes,” said Parker, who said the bee­tles were in­tro­duced in the Mid­west­ern U.S. as a means of pest con­trol.

Klymko said the Asian har­le­quin bee­tles can be seen as a prob­lem by many, but ac­tu­ally are some­times seen, from an agri­cul­tural per­spec­tive, as ben­e­fi­cial. That is be­cause they eat the same pests as na­tive la­dy­bee­tles: aphids.

“They’ve been in­ten­tion­ally in­tro­duced into North Amer­ica, more than once, for aphid con­trol,” Klymko said.

“They eat a lot of the pests on the crops, just like the la­dy­bugs around here eat the aphids. They were in­tro­duced from some­where in Asia,” said Parker.

De­spite their ag­gra­vat­ing be­hav­ior, the bugs pose no threat to any­one’s crops, so they are not clas­si­fied as a pest – rather, as a nui­sance.

“Pests eat crops, while a nui­sance is some­thing that causes you prob­lems as an in­di­vid­ual – like how they stink when you squish them,” said Parker. “They want in your house, and in ev­ery crack and crevice – they’ll clus­ter in cor­ners around door and win­dows”

Parker said the best thing to do to pre­vent prob­lems with the bee­tles is to pre­vent them from get­ting into houses and ve­hi­cles to be­gin with and mak­ing sure en­trances are sealed tight, with caulk­ing.

Klymko sug­gested us­ing a vac­uum to avoid crush­ing the in­sects – and pa­tience.

“Get it as tight as you can, so they can’t crawl in,” Parker added. “They want in your house, and want ev­ery crack and crevice.”

ADAM MACINNIS/THE NEWS

This is one of la­dy­bee­tles that has been call­ing Pic­tou County home lately.

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