It is as certain as the trees changing color and the inevitable decline towards winter – the annual invasion of the Asian lady beetles.
A warm day after the first hard frost is usually when the Harmonia axyridis invades. They are also called the harlequin, but do not confuse these bugs with romantic fiction. Hordes of the stink bugs fly into the soybean fields and infiltrate every crack, hole and crevice they can find.
The bugs release pheromones that alert others that they have just found a great place for winter, which attracts others. It’s the same reaction some people have to moving to Florida or Arizona.
The insects were first released by the US Department of Agriculture in California in 1916 and again in 1964-65 for biological control of pecan aphids. The bugs are beneficial in that they feed on aphids and other insects that can damage agricultural crops. So more were released in other states and the lady beetles invaded Wisconsin and Minnesota in the 1990s and have been a pest ever since.
The bugs have few natural predators because they are aposematic, with a red body color that warns animals to stay away. Our chickens did not want to touch them. And when they’re disturbed or feel threatened, they secrete a yellowish, smelly liquid that deters predators and makes your vacuum – one of the best weapons for taking them out inside the house – smell.
We use chemical spray around the windows and doors, but there are always a few that find their way into the house. This year the bugs upped their nuisance game by setting off our smoke detectors three times. We have 12 smoke detectors that are all hardwired, so when one detector goes off, they all do, which is pretty nice when you’re being woken up from a good night’s sleep.
I got advice from a friend who used to work for a pest control company and wiped down the detectors with a little spray to hopefully prevent them from crawling around on them. So far it has worked.
And even if the bugs stink and bite, I’d rather put up with them than the other plague of nauseous, negative political ads that unfortunately won’t end until the election on November 6th.
According to a September estimate from OpenSecrets.org, spending in just the federal midterm elections — not including state or local — is expected to exceed $9.3 billion.
I’m not an economist, but it seems like that kind of spending from people who say they’re going to take care of our inflation concerns is enough in itself to keep inflation going. It is especially disgusting when most of the ads are full of the same ingredient that I have often forked out of the barn.
As for the lady beetles, they have come in several waves this year, following the same roller coaster ride as the weather, which recently went from 15 degrees to 75 degrees in a few days.
But I expect the worst is behind us now that the nearby soybean fields have been combined. This is just one of the seasonal challenges of living in rural Wisconsin.
Chris Hardie spent more than 30 years as a reporter, editor and publisher. He has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and won dozens of state and national journalism awards. He is a past president of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association. Contact him at [email protected].