RE: Ladybugs

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<x-charset Windows-1252>I have seen large clusters of ladybugs on the south side of our beige house
in the fall. This is a microclimate and is several degrees warmer than the
surrounding immediate area. Once we had a window open and found several
hundred in a room. They congregate in the hundreds to hibernate. I would
agree with Arlenes post. If you have the patience, collect them up and put
them in a place like a garage or garden shed. I think it was Sharon Coleman
who told me they will eat wet cat food. (have not tried this myself). Often
they hibernate in attics and wake in Jan. or Feb and  then come crawling
into houses.

 They are predators and occasionally eat aphids, although apparently not as
much as the lady bugs for sale ads would have you believe. However, one
year, when we were building our house, the Cascara behind the house became
fuzzy with a bazillion aphids. It was astonishing the biomass of tiny clear
bugs, but two days later, I was more astonished to find the tree was red
with a bazillion lady bugs. I sat on our not quite finished deck and could
hear the crunching as they ate. Honest!  I have often wondered where they
all came from. Perhaps thousands of aphids give off some kind of pheromone
which instead of attracting mates, was the dinner bell for all the lady bugs
downwind.  They hung around for a couple more days then were gone.

There are several species  of lady bug with some of them having been
imported from other places. For example, perhaps the most common lady bug
beetle is the Asian lady bug, Harmonia axyridris which was imported from
Japan in the 1920's and like starlings and European Cross spiders, is out
competing other native species. Another foreigner is the Australian
ladybug,Rodolia cardinalis which was imported to CA to deal with a citrus
scale in the late 1800's.

A common and easy to ID ladybug is the two spot, which as her name implies
has two black spots on dull red elytra (The hard wing case of beetles). I
once watched one of these  in an alpine meadow as it fed upon a spider which
was about half its size. I did not see it actually kill the spider, but it
took about 25 minutes to crunch down the thorax and abdomen (the head was
already gone when I discovered the beetle picnic). It left the 8 legs
behind, maybe for a later snack. I have never thought of lady bugs in quite
the same way after that encounter.

Rob Sandelin
Naturalist, Teacher, writer

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