<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 --- Outgoing mail is certified Virus Free. Checked by AVG anti-virus system (http://www.grisoft.com). Version: 6.0.332 / Virus Database: 186 - Release Date: 3/6/02
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