Build Your Own Ladybug Trap for Less Than $10
WOOSTER, Ohio -- Joe Kovach has built a better ladybug trap -- simple and inexpensive to make -- and people may soon beat a path to his door, or at least to his Web site.
Kovach, coordinator of Ohio State Universitys Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program, and colleagues recently developed a new home trap for multicolored Asian lady beetles -- just one part of a much-wider effort aimed at battling the non-native bugs.
In the past 10 years, multicolored Asian lady beetles -- introduced to the United States as beneficial insects, ones that eat pests -- have become a major headache. Hundreds or even thousands of the orange-colored, black-spotted, pea-sized bugs invade peoples homes in fall. Living, crawling clusters form in attics, corners and basements.
Until now, the bugs were thought to be simply a nuisance. But recent research by Kovach and team showed that 25 percent of the people who live with high populations of multicolored Asian lady beetles report an allergic reaction to them.
Furthermore, its also now known that the beetles bite people, although, fortunately, not too often. Tiny, sharp mandibles do the work.
Ive been bitten, said Kovach, who works at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Centers Wooster campus. It felt like someone dragging a pin on my arm, like a cat scratch. Anyone who says (multicolored Asian lady beetles) dont bite has never been bitten.
Kovach and other scientists still arent sure why the beetles bite. It might be by accident. It might be to get moisture: sweat. Or it might be that theyre grazing on microbes on your skin.
A Lamp and Two Milk Jugs
Building Kovachs trap takes less than $10 worth of common materials: a clamp-on lamp, two plastic milk jugs, several sheets of clear transparency plastic and hardware. The device catches about 70 percent of the lady beetles in a room, which can add up to a lot of lady beetles. It can be rigged to a timer so it only comes on at night, for instance, or only when youre not in the room. Plans are available from the IPM program, (330) 263-3846, from county offices of Ohio State University Extension, and at ipm.osu.edu/lady/blt1.htm.
Commercial traps -- costing around $175 and up to 99 percent effective (according to research by Kovach and team) -- are available, too. Theyre best for situations where nearly complete control is needed: restaurants, food-processing plants and other places where its important to be bug-free.
Hmm. Looks like a Cliff
Why do ladybugs swarm into homes, barns and offices? They think the buildings are cliffs. Thats where the beetles overwinter in Asia. Houses with woods on two or three sides have it worst. They present a silhouette that the bugs see as a cliff. The color of a house doesnt matter much, Kovach found. If youre going to get them youre going to get them, he said.
But there are ways to minimize infestations. Start by caulking small holes in buildings and putting small-mesh screens over large holes. Install or fix door sweeps and window screens. And consider applying a pyrethroid pesticide or camphor-based repellent around potential entry points.
Details (Time to Get Ready) are in the September 2002 issue of Lady Beetle News, published by Kovach and colleagues and available from (330) 263-3846, from county Ohio State University Extension offices, and at http://www.ag.ohio-state.edu/~ipm/lady/sept02.pdf.
Indian Summer Spurs Swarming
Applying pesticides and repellents takes good timing. So Kovach and colleagues are developing a model to predict when ladybugs will swarm, making sprays more precise and efficient. The work isnt done yet. So far whats known is that swarming depends on three factors: day length, chilling hours (including a freeze) and a warm spell. In Ohio this can happen almost any time in October or early November.
What generally happens is that a cold front comes in, its rainy, it moves through, Kovach explained. Then the next day isa beautiful Indian-summer day -- clear, blue skies, 65 or 70 degrees and thats when theyll swarm, and theyll swarm as long as the temperature stays in that range.
This fall, ladybug swarms are being tracked all over the United States. Working together, Kovachs team and the North Central Region Pest Management Center created a Web site (http://www.pmcenters.org/northcentral/malb/) to gather nationwide information.
Visitors to the site find three surveys: a residential survey aimed at gathering data on the nature and timing of home infestations, a commodity survey to track the beetle in various crops to see if the bug helps or hurts the crops, and a research survey in which scientists and Extension agents can report when swarms appear.
In the end, the biggest part of the ladybug tale may be the crash of a tiny pest. In 2001, Ohio had an outbreak of soybean aphids, and ladybugs feasted and boomed. In 2002, the pest virtually vanished in the state. The effect on lady beetle populations remains to be seen.
In the next few months, visit the Web site -- or your kitchen, attic or sock drawer -- to find out.