Friday, November 1, 2013

Asian Lady Beetle Invaders

From:  Mike Waldvogel and Patty Alder, Extension Entomology 

Just in case the kudzu bugs weren't annoying enough, we have had reports from western NC that the Asian lady beetles have begun their search for winter quarters.  For those of you who are new to this phenomenon, you can read about it at: 

While a lot of North Carolinians spent last week dining on deep-fried everything at the NC State Fair, the beetles have been focusing their attention on crevices in tree bark, rock outcroppings, and (of course) buildings.   The beetles use visual and physical  cues to find suitable overwintering sites. Although these locations  tend to be the sunnier or warmer sides of buildings, or on exposed  light-colored buildings, this doesn't mean that people with dark-colored siding, brick or log homes are immune to the lady beetle assault.  Research has shown that the beetles seem to respond to contrasting and often right-angle shapes or reflective colors, which conveniently (for them) are what windows and doors present against the overall background of a house. Once the beetles arrive at the site, they use chemical cues to locate the specific crevice they want to inhabit within the structure.  The source of these chemical cues may be beetle feces from previous winters (yes... they live and poop inside your walls), or the odor of beetles that died at the site, or possibly an attractant or  pheromone released by the beetles. So, think of your house as the sacred ladybeetle burial ground. 

In some cases, the beetles are a very limited nuisance. However, we have had situations where people's houses have been inundated
with literally thousands of lady beetles.  The sheer numbers of beetles that appear over the course of the winter and spring convince people that the beetles are reproducing in the house. Of course, this isn't true.  The beetles prey mostly on tree-feeding aphids, but they are also found in a variety of agricultural crops.  They lay their eggs on these same plants. So, unless they're growing some "crop" indoors that's infested with aphids (some very mellow and happy aphids) then the beetles are not reproducing or laying eggs in your house.  The  beetles show up because they are simply heeding Nature's call to escape harsh winter weather.

The beetles do not cause real structural damage, if you exclude the odor and yellow-brown stain that they often leave when you disturb or squish them.  There have been reports that the beetles may "bite", but it's more like a pinch (unless you're a real whimp).  There have been published reports of people developing significant allergies from exposure to airborne particulates from decaying lady beetle carcasses. So, the lady beetles aren't entirely innocent of any wrongdoing. 

As with kudzu bugs, pesticides remain questionable in their effectiveness. Some studies have shown that treatments around windows and doors particularly on the south side of the house may have a more significant (but not absolute) impact on the beetle invasions. While frustrated homeowners are anxious to engage in chemical  warfare against the beetles, let's be practical and consider the logistics and safety behind trying to treat sufficient exterior areas of a home to prevent beetles from gaining access.  Even if you do  treat around windows and doors, there is a lot of unchartered territory for the beetles to explore. We still see chemical control as being mostly an exercise in futility.  If people do try to spray pesticides on the exterior of their houses, particularly up high over their heads, please stress to them the need to wear some sort of personal protective equipment, particularly something to protect their eyes, head and other exposed body parts from the chemical mist that rains down upon them and their kids who are watching nearby.  Yes..... keep kids and pets OUT of the area, preferably inside. 

We still recommend the tried-and-true method of vacuuming up wayward beetles indoors, although this recommendation rarely 
appeases irate callers who then make rude, socially unacceptable and physically impossible suggestions as to what you can do with 
vacuum cleaner bags full of beetles. Light traps work well for catching beetles in some situations and this may be particularly important for commercial facilities, such as hospitals and some manufacturing plants, where any type of biocontamination is a critical issue.  These facilities often use the expensive industrial style light traps (not the traditional "bug zapper" type of trap you hang in your yard for summer entertainment).  There is a trap that homeowners can build and use in their homes. These traps will work best at night with minimum interior lighting (i.e., with all lights off) or during the day if you close your curtains to keep out extraneous exterior light and the prying eyes nosey neighbors who want to know what you're doing behind those closed curtains. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

VanWingerden International Open House

Have you ever wondered what goes on inside those big time commercial greenhouses??? Well now is your chance...

The VanWingerden International, Inc. 22nd Annual Open House is happening on November 9th from 10am - 3pm at 4055 Haywood Rd, Mills River, NC... Tour the greenhouses and enjoy the acres of poinsettias while learning about the environmentally friendly growing practices! Bring your walking shoes!  Questions, please call (828) 891-4116

Monday, July 15, 2013

Pesticide Safety

Please take a moment to read the excerpt from the 'North Carolina Pest News' below on the use of a specific type of systemic insecticides...


North Carolina State University * College of Agriculture & Life Sciences of Entomology * Box 7613 * Raleigh, NC 27695
Volume 28, Number 14, July 12, 2013


The information and recommendations in this newsletter are applicable to North Carolina and may not apply in other areas.


From: Steve Frank, Extension Entomologist

News About Neonicotinoid Insecticides

Neonicotinoids include products such as imidacloprid (Merit, Marathon, various homeowner products made by Bayer), dinotefuran (Safari), acetamiprid (TriStar), and thiamethoxam (Flagship). All the chemicals in this group are systemic and move to plant issue once applied. This includes nectar and pollen. These products have been under scrutiny lately due to their negative effects on pollinators. See this report:

Recently there was a large bee kill in Oregon apparently due to misapplication of a neonicotinoid to a flowering linden tree. Labels typically state “Do not apply to flowering plants or when pollinators are present” or something similar. In response the Oregon Department of Agriculture has temporarily restricted use of dinotefuran while it investigates the incident. More information about this incident is in a recent article:

It is important to correctly use all insecticides by professionals and homeowners.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Warmer Weather

Warmer weather brings all sorts of great things... new leaves on the trees, spring flowers, active bird populations, and mosquitoes!!! Yes, I said it, mosquitoes! Many times homeowners are not overly concerned with mosquitoes until they become a pest, literally. But what can you do now? 

According to Dr. Michael Waldvogel, Extension Associate Professor & Specialist, Structural & Industrial Pests, now is the time to start prevention methods for mosquito control. Eliminate standing water around your home. Even small areas that collect water such as a sagging tarp on a boat, or an old tire, can be a haven for mosquito larvae. Clean out your gutters to ensure that water flows freely and does not get stopped up to create a pool. Also, make sure to clear any drainage ditches around your home. A drainage ditch is meant to collect and redistribute runoff in a timely manner. It should not have standing water where mosquitoes can breed. 

Last but not least, Dr. Waldvogel says, "Convince your neighbors to do the same because mosquito control takes a community effort."

Image Courtesy of

Monday, March 18, 2013

Ground Nesting Bees

I just received an email from Mike Waldvogel, NC Extension Specialist, Structural & Industrial Pests. Since I do receive calls every year concerning these bees I thought I would get the word out in advance. If you still have questions, please feel free to call.

In the near future, you may start seeing either small mounds of soil in your yard or "swarms" of bees showing up in the landscape. Schools and child care facility managers often panic because they think these are swarms that ose a health risk to the children. They are most likely the solitary bees such as the "colletids" and "andrenids" that often emerge at this time of year. Even with the cooler weather we've experienced, rain that has softened the soil and open exposed areas warm more quickly contributing to this burst of activity. 
The bees begin foraging for food and seeking out new nesting sites. This activity will continue for about the next tow months depending on  the area of the state and the species of bee. They dig vertical tunnels in the soil on which they make small side chambers that they store pollen for their offspring. These bees are "solitary" which means there is not a true colony. A lot of the "swarming" that you see are male and female bees. (Think of your lawn as a big singles bar for bees). These bees frequently make small mounds in the soil, often where the soil is loose and vegetation may be sparse. You frequently see clusters of these nests but they are all made by individual queens which do the work without the help of workers as occurs in a honey bee nest.
Although the damage can be unsightly with large numbers of mounds in the yard, it is mostly a cosmetic issue. The bigger problem is usually that people walking by panic because they assume that these are swarms of honey bees, or similar species, that will likely attach them if they venture to close to the nest. Turf nesting bees can sting but rarely do so, since they are not "social" and you don't have a large number of worker bees that are trying to protect a nest. There is no "mass attack" as might occasionally occur with a close encounter of the yellowjacket kind!
These bees are beneficial and should be left alone if possible. If you want something done, you can apply almost anything that you would tyically use outdoors for perimeter treatments. One problem is that the bees often try to dig into the sand in play ares at schools, childcare facilities, etc. Of course parents and teachers are concerned about stinging incidents particularly if a child is hypersensitive to bee stings. In those instances, I still strongly discourage any chemical treatment particularly in sandy play areas where kids come into direct contact with the soil.
If the bees try to next in a sandbox, a simple solution is to cover it during the day but it will take a few weeks for you to deter most of the bees that show up over time. While the tarping approach isn't always successful, wider areas can be saturated with plain of soapy water which will bring the bees out. Since sopa will work as an insecticide to some extent, it will kill some of the bees in the process but I still consider this preferable over the use of conventional insecticides. The waterlogged soils will hopefully deter the bees but again we're looking at activity that can take place over several weeks. 

Information, including pictures, of these bees and the "damage" that they cause can be found at:


Friday, February 1, 2013

The Produce Lady

Have you ever wondered what to do with your extra veggies? or How to prepare that spaghetti squash that a friend gave you seed from? The Produce Lady is a program created through North Carolina Cooperative Extension that encourages the residents and farmers of North Carolina to produce and purchase locally grown fruits and vegetables. It is a great resources for recipes, preparation help, proper production practices, and much more! The Produce Lady uses YouTube videos to make learning a fun and interactive process. Links to great resources and statewide events are also all easily found on the website. So hurry on over to, check out a recipe, head off to your local farmers market for supplies, and I'll be over for dinner!