Saturday, March 21, 2015

Asian Ladybeetles and the Legacy They Leave Behind

     Fickle March! Its weather tantrums are in full swing. After giving us wet snow on Thursday, it gave us a pretty First Day of Spring today. We reserved this weekend to paint our living room and if that hadn't been on the schedule, I would rather have been outside.
     Steve and I hammered out the painting job like real pros. Earlier this week I bought two gallons of Benjamin Moore Linen White in an eggshell finish. It has just a hint of yellow in it to give the room a warm glow. To the casual observer, it looks white unless you hold it next to a true white; then you can see it's linen. Yesterday, in preparation, we pushed all the furniture to the middle of the room, took down everything from the walls, spackled and sanded any imperfections, vacuumed baseboards and areas that haven't seen the light of day for many years, and ran into our one and only problem: Asian Ladybeetle poop.
     For those of you familiar with these pests, you know they like warm places and overwinter in the walls of houses, particularly light-colored homes. They make mass migrations into homes on warm October days, finding any crack that will give them entrance. Then, they march across the room where the walls and ceiling meet. They find cozy places to bunch up (in corners, inside shades, etc.) to overwinter. Our control tactic is to vacuum them up before they bunch and hide. This seems to be the most effective way to rid them. The vacuum bag must be emptied regularly because they have a distinctive odor which, to me, smells like dirt. In one particularly bad year, Steve actually took the shop vac outside and vacuumed the outside of our house. It seemed silly at the time, but it definitely cut back on the infestation that year and reduced their numbers the following year.
     One problem we didn't foresee was the trail of droppings these ladybeetles leave along the top of the wall. At a glance, it isn't noticeable. But, if you get up on a ladder and look, there are little black dots all along the places they've walked. We thought a fresh coat of paint would take care of it. That was until we realized IT BLEEDS THROUGH! Not only does the poop not cover over, it runs and streaks black into the paint. Once I noticed this I stopped painting and washed the area first. That did nothing to help. I then tried Windex. That was no good either. Their poop is glued on, hard as cement. Then we tried sanding it off, which helped a little. The best remedy is to cover it with a stain blocker, such as Kilz. The paint guy at the hardware store recommended an oil based stain blocker, which can then be painted over with latex, but we didn't want to deal with the odor and clean up of that product. Steve's solution was to painstakingly sand and scrape the worst areas before we continued with painting. We also used some water-based Kilz, which was better than nothing.
     Once that problem was dealt with, the sun shone, a warm breeze came in the window, music played on Pandora and we got the job done; two coats trimmed and painted all in one day. My hand and arm ache a little, but the room is fresh and pretty for another few years. We're thinking ahead for when October arrives with the next wave of ladybeetles. How to prevent them from walking on our newly painted walls seems an impossible task. We're thinking perhaps sticky tape, near the front door where they get in, might stop them before they get too far. Or Steve could station himself outside the front door with the vacuum for a few days. That would definitely do the trick.
Tess took this cool photo a few years ago. Notice the tiny mite on the ladybeetle's head? (Look  about 11:00 from the center of the photograph)


  1. Painting seems like such a chore to me - it's good you all work with such team spirit to get it done. The war on the ladybeetles made me smile. :) I'm glad we don't have them or maybe it's just that we call them ladybugs? We have ladybugs in our church - I noticed one inside the sacristy Sunday when I was changing out the paraments. (We use red for Palm Sunday - a church tradition.)

    1. Easter is my favorite observance Lynn! I love that your church has these traditions. Our new pastor is offering a Tenebrae Service, which we have never done before. It is held the Thursday before Easter. Here is a link about it: