January 9, 2005

Asian Lady Bugs Becoming Nuisance

WACO, Texas (AP) -- Swarms of Asian lady bugs, introduced in this country to control pests, have themselves become a nuisance on golf courses and in homes and gardens around Texas.

The insects are beneficial in the summer, but in the winter they infest houses - unlike native lady bugs, which prefer to stay outdoors.

Agriculture experts say the Asian bugs deposit waste and shed skins that become allergens inside homes. They can also leave blood stains on curtains and clothes.

"You hate to say lady bugs are terrible, but they've been terrible for about 60 days now," said McLennan County gardener Doug Quicksall. "They were swarming all around us like houseflies ... and the little rascals stink too. They have a distinct odor about them."

Quicksall has been using a vacuum to get rid of the lady bugs in his house.

Another avid gardener, Ila Jean Carothers, said she has clumps of them in her husband's workshop and they seem to gather around golf courses.

"They land all over you while you're playing. I've never seen them like this before," she said.

Carothers has been using paper to scoop up and get rid of the insects.

The United States Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service released thousands of the bugs around the country in the late 1970s and 1980s as a defense against tree aphids.

They showed up in Texas in 1992 but had not been causing problems until lately.

"A lot of people still don't know what they are and why they are a pest," said Michael Merchant, an entomologist at the Texas A&M Cooperative Extension Center in Dallas.

"They are nothing to panic about," said Merchant, "but if they get in your house, it's best not to spray with insecticides. They'll just pile up in your walls and smell."


Information from: Waco Tribune-Herald, http://www.accesswaco.com