October 24, 2002

Alfred Hitchcock Presents

THE BIRDS. Remember the classic thriller? It is happening here. LADYBIRDS! Tens of thousands of them. Tiny orange Volkswagen shaped beetles that have appeared by spontaneous generation out of the chill air, rising in a cloud in the warm sun of an Indian Summer day. They swirl and spiral in a shaft of early morning light and spend the rest of the day clammering over the surface of our white farmhouse, looking for ways to find winter shelter inside, with us. Many succeed, creeping in around door frames, sneaking in each time the door is opened briefly to let the dog in or out or in.

This is a story of a good idea gone south. (A term which, by the way, I take umbrage at, and am currently suing for reparations as a Southerner suffering irreparable mental anguish by the association between my beloved South and this term denoting putrification, as in "this here chickenleg has gone south".) But I digress.

Our first year here, when the house was under 'destruction', without doors and windows for months while being recreated, the word went out to Ladybirds (Ladybugs...neither true bugs nor birds) far and wide that we were accepting all comers. They swarmed in unimpeded, and stayed hidden after doors and windows covered the larger openings. They were Hoovered out of corners of the rooms and from the window glass by the hundreds. We learned early on that you should not smash them, even though on one level, that is just what would bring the most satisfaction. Flattened, they smell like a room full of old socks, and leave a tell-tale yellow stain at the point of impact, making for an interesting pattern on the walls, but yellow doesn't fit our color scheme.

Imported as a 'biological control' for aphids that feed on commercial and garden crops, the Japanese or Asian Ladybird Beetle has gotten quite out of hand. There are no natural predators, at least not in sufficient quantity to serves as a control for the population of insects. The winters, perhaps back when winters were of 'normal' severity, probably served to kill off the vast majority of them, those that did not find there way under our door. Global warming is just copesetic to the Ladybirds. It is rumoured that they are lobbying against the Kyoto agreement on Global Warming. I think they must be Republicans.

The good news: maybe in their accidental abundance, the Ladybirds will be effective as a control (oh please!) against the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid, which, if unchecked, may soon eliminate this wonderful dark evergreen from the Eastern forests. Ah, the poetic justice of nature. The beneficial becomes pest becomes savior. Stay tuned.

Posted by fred1st at October 24, 2002 07:18 AM

I get Biblical-scale infestations of them in my apartment whenever it warms up after a cold spell. It's disgusting. I have to go on a mass bugmurder spree. Any affection I may have had for the little critters is long since used up.

Posted by: Pascale Soleil at October 24, 2002 12:22 PM

Yesterday I was harvesting long beans. They are growing on the chain link between our house and the neighbors to the west.
I discovered a group of afids and decided to get out the Sevin dust. Then I saw one ladybird and recanted.
If my lonley little beetle is not up to the task perhaps I can have a few of yours?

Posted by: Charlie at October 27, 2002 07:50 AM

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