''There are spiders on the ceiling,'' I said to my husband a few days ago. ''Kill them.''
It might sound harsh, and I really don't mind spiders, except when they bite me. Normally I don't react to insect bites. Bee stings leave a bit of a red mark that lasts about an hour and mosquitoes tend to pass me by for tastier fare. But spiders bite me and I end up itching for days.
''They aren't spiders,'' my husband said. ''They're ladybugs.''
And sure enough, as I looked harder at my pale yellow living room ceiling, the two dark dots that I thought were spiders were slowly crawling beetles. I should have known.
I should have known because I think I have a pretty good grasp of these annoying, but somewhat harmless, little insects. Their arrival is easily predicted. I should have been expecting them.
''My kids have been sucking up ladybugs with the vacuum,'' said a co-worker the day after I mistook my own beetles for spiders.
There's a reason why we are all dealing with the bugs right now. It is because we had several cold days a couple weeks ago and as is typical of northeast Ohio in October, we had a sudden warm spell shortly after. These are exactly the conditions that brings the Multicolored Asian Lady Beetles out of hiding and into, as well as onto, our homes.
They are attracted to light colors. If your house is brick red, dark green or brown, you probably won't see many beetles, but if your house is white, yellow or pale gray, you may see swarms of them clinging to your siding, basking in the sun.
If you have openings anywhere, they will come inside. They will grab onto your pant legs, ride on the backs of your dogs and cats and slip into cracks and crevices unnoticed, where later on they are quite noticeable crawling along the ceiling, walls and windowsills.
These interesting, if not annoying, insects are really our friends. Just like our familiar red and black lady beetles, these bugs feed on aphids and other soft-bodied insects that like to feed on our plants.
If you are wondering why you never noticed them when you were young, it's because prior to 1993, they weren't even in Ohio. Originally from Asia, as their name implies, Multicolored Asian lady beetles originated in areas where they would hibernate in crevices along cliff faces. There aren't many cliff faces here in northeast Ohio, so instead they try to find warm places in our homes.
Unlike the even peskier Japanese beetle that came into our country as a stowaway, the Multicolored Asian lady beetle was brought here on purpose. According to the entomology department at The Ohio State University Extension, these beetles were intentionally released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service in the late 1970s and early 1980s to help control pests that are harmful to trees. These releases were done in several eastern states, including Ohio.
But those were the first releases. As far back as 1916 and the 1930s, releases of this insect were done in California. They must not have liked that climates, however, as they failed to become established there. But they are here now and we are learning, somehow, to live with these beneficial, but bothersome little bugs.
If they do become a nuisance in your home, it's important to remember not to squash the little guys. Like their outer shells, their blood is orange, and it stains. As a defense mechanism, this orange fluid also doesn't smell very nice. While they aren't aggressive insects, they will bite or nip if they are handled. It isn't common to be allergic to their bites, and entomologists say they aren't biting to attack, but are simply tasting us to see if we would be a good food source. We aren't. The best way to rid our homes of the beetles if we can't live with them is exactly the route my co-worker and his children took - vacuum them up.
If you aren't convinced they are harmless, here are a few myths about the beetles that simply aren't true. They are simply looking for a place to hibernate. They don't carry diseases, and they don't eat wood. Nor do they eat human food, so you won't like find them in your flour canister or your breadbox. Those are different beetles, which we won't discuss here. In fact, they don't eat at all while they are hibernating.