Ladybird Beetle Winter Quarters

In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan every fall brought thousands of cluster flies into the house. In the Ozarks the ladybird beetle or ladybug moves in.

The war against house invasion is intense. Somehow it makes me forget that not all the insects in question are invading.

For the insects this invasion is deadly serious. Their lives are at stake. They either find a place to overwinter or they die.

For the home owner the invasion is mostly a case of inconvenience. Piles of cluster flies up to six inches tall in every window, carpets of them hanging on the ceiling and rugs spreading across the floor is a housekeeper’s nightmare.

ladybird beetle

Look closely. That black and white section is not the beetle’s head. It’s head is the small triangular brown bit in front of the thorax section which houses the legs and wings.

At least cluster flies are fairly innocuous. They do not smell. they do not bite. Ladybugs do both.

Walking down the road taking pictures of various plant seed cases I was reminded that my house is not the only target of invasion for the ladybird beetle. The small bluff rock was a target too.

A few wasps were checking out various nooks and crannies. Lots of ladybugs were running across the rock poking into every crevice.

cliffbrake fern

Purple cliffbrake ferns grow in pockets of dirt caught in crevices in bluff rocks. The long narrow leaflets show up in the spring and stay throughout the season. The larger leaflets are more common in fall and stay until winter finally kills them off.

The rock face is cracked and fissured. It has tiny caves up to an inch across leading into the rock. Plants, mostly purple cliffbrake ferns and columbine, dot the surface. The columbines are tiny tufts now. The ferns have their winter leaflets long and oval and dull green hanging down.

The ladybugs were exploring all the possible places they could get into. They will pile in as groups. The objective is to be among the first to get in as the others form an insulating barrier to the outside winter cold.

There is a problem now. Killing frost is overdue. That frost is the signal to pile in and go to sleep.

The ladybird beetle population is trying to move in for the winter. Aphids are in short supply. Days are short.

ladybird beetle on rocks

Bluff rocks have lots of holes and cracks for the ladybugs to check out. Many of them will fill up with the insects as they try to find a safe place to spend the winter.

Temperatures soar into the seventies, even eighty degrees during the day coaxing the ladybugs out again.

Winter is coming. Most leaves have turned color. Brown dry leaves cover the ground. Juncos and chickadees have returned.

Someday soon the ladybug invasion will be in earnest.