Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Annual Swarm

Around the end of October of every year, Asian lady beetles begin to search for a place that is dry, cool and concealing where they can spend the winter hibernating. In their natural habitat, they do this in cracks and crevices within cliff faces, huddling together by the thousands. In the city, where cliffs are not prevalent, they seek out shelter in houses and buildings, entering through doors, cracks, crevices, vents and windows.


Yesterday was our annual Asian lady beetle swarm. By noon, the back of our home was crawling with these bugs. I wondered why only the back of the house was infested, so I decided to do a little research. What I learned is that lady beetles congregate on the south-facing side of a house (that would be the back of ours) because that’s where it’s warmest.

“Well, duh, water roots lady, you couldn’t figure that out on your own?”



The first time I witnessed a swarm of lady beetles, it sort of freaked me out. I mean, I like these bugs and all (how can you not like a bug that devours aphids?), but when there are a gazillion of them crawling all over the exterior of your home (and even you if you happen to be outdoors during this madness), well, it’s rather unsettling.

This phenomenal swarm is kind of, you know, Alfred Hitchcock-ish. It reminds me of the movie ‘The Birds’; a suspense film that Hitchcock directed. Do you remember that? Or know of it? It’s about the residents of a small town in the San Francisco Bay area that are suddenly being violently attacked by swarms (there’s that word again) of birds that have inexplicably declared war on the human race. And it’s not just one type of bird; all the different species have teamed up to take over the world.

“So what are you saying, water roots lady? That sweet little Asian lady beetles will join forces with bees and grasshoppers and dragonflies and declare war on us? Aren’t you being a little paranoid? Come to think of it, didn’t you recently mention something similar about marigolds and houseplants and even tiny little chipmunks, of all things? Maybe you sniffed one too many garden weeds this summer”

Hey, anything’s possible.

"Well this isn’t. Bugs do not possess the intelligence to team up with other bugs to take over the world"


Sounds similar to what the elderly woman in the movie said about the birds. Oh come now; you know who I’m talking about: Mrs. Bundy, the amateur ornithologist. Well, she insists that birds of different species do not flock together, “the very concept is unimaginable” And to plan an organized attack? No way. “I would hardly think that either species (referring to crows and blackbirds) would have sufficient intelligence to launch a massed attack. Their brain pans are not big enough…”

Well, despite her words, a motorist is attacked right outside the window while he’s filling his car with fuel, he’s knocked unconscious, gasoline is spilled on the ground when he drops the hose, which ingnites when another man lights a cigar near it, and mayhem ensues with people dying all over the place. And poor Mrs. Bundy is now red-faced.

“For heaven’s sake, water roots lady, it was just a movie”

That’s what they want us to think. I bet there’s a lot more to it than the government is letting on. I read Dean Koontz books, you know. I know what’s going on.

“Crazy as a loon...”

What did you say?

“Er...I said it was a hazy afternoon....”

Well, we should have some sunny breaks tomorrow morning.

“I GOT IT! In the movie there’s more than one type of bird, right? Well, you only saw the Asian lady beetles. No other bugs. So there’s no plot to take over the world because the bugs have not united. They’re just not smart enough! Ha ha ha…I got you!”

Well, not exactly. There were these bugs too:

Runs away screaming... “AHHHHHHH....she’s crazy!”

Oh well, there goes another one...

Incidentally folks, even though significant numbers may congregate inside walls if they manage to find a way in, they’re more of a nuisance than anything else. They won’t harm you or feed on the wood of your home or eat your food or damage your clothes or reproduce while indoors. Still, you should make sure to seal all outside cracks and crevices to prevent their entry. After all, two or three lady beetles is cute, a hundred or so is, well, Alfred Hitchcock-ish.


  1. This was absolutely hilarious, Martha! You had me laughing out loud...and I'm still laughing. And your captions crack me up.

    And regarding The Birds: Oh my God, that movie scared the heck out of me when I saw it as a child. (Remember how the people had their eyeballs pecked out? *Shudder*) And I've always loved birds. But for months afterward, I felt uneasy every time a bird landed nearby, especially if another soon joined it. Yikes.

    By the way, we also had the ladybug swarm yesterday---way down here, hundreds and hundreds of miles away! Doesn't that sort of lend credence to the idea of bugs seeking world domination??? :-)

    Thanks for a great post.

  2. You know Beth, I was watching some scenes of that movie a couple of days ago on YouTube and one of the clips was about the eyeballs of some guy having been plucked out. I'd forgotten about that! Eeekkk! Yeah, that was pretty freaky.

    It sounds funny, but there are a lot more bugs than there are human and if they'd ever unite to go against us, well, we wouldn't stand a chance!

  3. So, were the ones that came in, and got disposed of, dead or just hibernating? Hmm.

  4. oh, btw, thanks for the fave!! :)

  5. omg, this was sooo funny! I love the ladybug captions. I am soooo utterly disgusted by and hateful of the boxelder bugs. I get a gazillion at this time of the year. I know they're getting ready for a cozy winter inside my house, but can't really tell where they're getting in! I do blast all their babies with a soap solution every day in the spring/summer. I did a daily bug patrol with it. It will be interesting to see if there's any effect on this fall's overwintering swarm. But like your guy, my boxelders are also plotting to take over the world!

  6. ROFL...that was just about the funniest bug post I have ever read! Great job and thanks for the chuckles!!! Kim

  7. Evolution of a gardener, I don't know. Nobody's talking... Some things are best left unsaid... :)

    Hi Wendy, clearly I have too much time on my hands. Or a few loose screws. In any case, I cannot go through life without a sense of humour. I find humour in something daily.

    I've only found two ladybugs in my home since that day, and I've placed them both back outside.

    Oh, you are welcome about the fave! I really like your blog! It's very interesting and funny.

    Inadvertent farmer, I can't tell you how many times I ROFL when I visit your blog. You're hilarious!

    Thanks for dropping by! I'm so glad you enjoyed my post.

  8. You are hysterical!!! I love your little pictures and captions.
    The Birds was a freaky movie! I loved it, but it certainly creeped me out!
    Oh those boxelder beetles are the worst! We have a boxelder tree right outside our bay window and this time of year the window is COVERED with those beetles! Eck! But you're right; they don't do us any harm. But it is a bit too poltergeist for me sometimes!

  9. Hi Pale Gardener, gosh, shucks thanks. I can't go a day without humour in my life. Sometimes I like to share that silly stuff with my blog visitors.

    It's been a long time since I saw 'The Birds' movie; I'd really like to track it down to watch, just for fun.

    I'd never paid attention to the beetles before, so I was quite surprised when they joined forces with the ladybugs.