Monday July 24, 2017
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Invasive Asian Lady Beetles

Asian Lady Beetle

Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis)

Ladybug, Ladybug, fly away . . .”

Invasive or Invited? The Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle looks like our North American ladybug but it’s really an invasive species.

The Asian Lady beetle, however, could make an argument that rather than have invaded the country, it was invited – by our government.

It seems we didn’t have enough ladybugs so the Asian Lady Beetle was introduced into the states during the 1970´s to perform chemical-free pest control, for both our agricultural crops and our national forests.

Nine-spotted ladybug

The native Nine-Spotted ladybug is a threatened and endangered species. It has four spots on each wing and one spot that is split in the middle.

Native Ladybugs

Today, there are very few native ladybugs; so much so, that there´s an actual website dedicated to “lost” ladybugs!

Hearts Pest Management is concerned about ladybugs and other beneficial insects…that’s why we practice Organic Pest Control!

The “Lost Ladybug Project” petitions help from the public to photograph native ladybugs found throughout the country, such as the Nine-Spotted ladybug (very rare) or the Parenthesis ladybug, as well as the European Seven-Spotted ladybird.

Native ladybugs are all gentle species that have been displaced by the Asian Lady Beetle. The most common native ladybug in North America is the Convergent ladybug but it too has dropped in numbers because of the invasive Asian beetle.

Parenthesis Ladybug

North American Native – Parenthesis ladybug (Hippodamia parenthesis)

Easy Asian Lady Beetle Identification

If a ladybug lands on you and then flies away on her own (without blowing on her), it´s supposed to be good luck. But before you start singing the “Ladybug Song” to make her fly . . . check out her pronotum, the area behind her head.

An Asian Lady Beetle has two large oval white markings. Besides the oval white spots on the Asian Lady Beetle´s pronotum, there´s usually a white area in the middle, giving the black area of the pronotum the appearance of an `M.´

Map of Asian Lady Beetle Origins

Map of Asian Lady Beetle Origins

Count the spots – she either has none or up to twenty-two and her coloring is pale orange to dark red.

The Asian Lady Beetle is also called the Harlequin Ladybird.  It comes in a variety of colors from pale orange to deep red.

Young beetles tend to be black with irregular red spots. The Asian Lady Beetle is also a bit larger than most native ladybugs.

Helpful and Harmful Lady Beetles

For farmers, the Asian Lady Beetle has been a big help and quite useful in

Asian Lady Beetle Identification

Asian Lady Beetles have a distinguishing “M” on their pronotums and up to 22 spots.

controlling insect populations for our agricultural crops, reducing the need for pesticides.

All ladybugs feed on aphids, scale insects, and mites. However, because of the Asian Lady Beetle, several North American ladybug species have declined in numbers.

Not only are native and invasive ladybug species competing for the same food source, the Asian Lady Beetle is hardier, and stronger. It also has an arsenal of a parasitic fungus that kills other ladybug species, especially when native ladybugs find and feed off Asian Lady Beetle eggs and larvae.

Evidently, all ladybugs will eat each other´s young if and when they come in contact.

Asian Lady Beetle larva

Asian Lady Beetle larva rearing up her head.

You can really see the “M” on this Asian Lady beetle’s pronotum.

Ladybugs as Pests, Really?

Twenty years ago, across North America, one could find thousands of ladybugs. Now it´s a rare treat to spot (pardon the pun) native ladybugs. Although native ladybugs are gentle and beneficial to one’s garden, the Asian Lady Beetle can actually become a pest.

Asian Lady Beetles are also known as “Harlequin Ladybirds” due to variations in their coloring. Today, these beetles have become a statewide pest.  One may ask, “What could be so pesky about a ladybug? Well, read on . . .

In October, Asian Lady Beetles invade homes in preparation for overwintering. They congregate in attics, ceilings, and walls while seeking protection and warmth for  the winter.

English Ladybird

Ladybugs or Ladybirds as in this English Ladybird are called the Seven-Spotted Ladybird with three spots on each wing and one in the middle.

Convergent Ladybug

Most common native ladybug in North America -Convergent Ladybug (Hippodamia convergens)

Believe it or not, homeowners have reported sinus problems due to infestations of Asian Lady Beetles.

The beetle´s defensive tactic, when disturbed, is to emit a yellow, foul-smelling chemical – which can stain walls and other surfaces. Asian Lady Beetles may look cute but they can and will bite!

The Future of Ladybugs

When one species becomes dominate, and environmental conditions change, that species runs the risk of becoming threatened or even extinct.  This can cause problems in the ecosystem.

These Asian beetles found a nice niche in the middle of some leaves for a bit of privacy.

In regards to ladybugs, if we lost all ladybugs, including the invasive ones, it would be detrimental to the health of our agricultural crops and increase the need for pesticides.

On the home front, ladybugs can often be seen wherever there is an abundance of water, especially near ponds. Ladybugs are beneficial beetles that are important in controlling garden pests such as aphids and scale insects.

Asian Lady Beetle on Impatiens

Asian Ladybird Beetle on Impatiens

The next time I´m out hiking with my camera, I will be “hunting” for Nine-Spotted, Convergent, and Parenthesis Ladybug-Ladybirds!

In the meantime, a special thanks to all ladybugs for keeping our food free from pests and our flowering plants beautiful.

small asian ladybug
Article by Donna M. Walker

Call today at 800-986-1006 for information on our Greenthumb maintenance program and organic pest control.

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City Services for Pest Control in Los Angeles
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Orange County • 800-986-1006
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References

Mallis, A. 2011. Handbook of Pest Control, Tenth Edition, Saunders College Publishing. Lost Ladybug.org (2014). The Lost Ladybug Project. Wikipedia. (2014). The Free Encyclopedia: Harmonia axyridis. National Geographic.com (2013). News Watch – Invasive Lady Beetle Kills Off Competition Using Parasites. Natural History Museum.org (2014). Los Angeles. Lost Ladybug Project – Identifying Ladybugs. Penn State University Entomology (2013). Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle Factsheets.

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Friday December 2, 2016
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Packrats and Traders

What do human packrats, traders, and woodrats have in common?

Big-eared Woodrat – aka Packrat

Big-eared Woodrat – aka Packrat

Big-eared Woodrats AKA Packrats and Traderats

You’ve heard the term “packrat” used to describe a neighbor, a family member, maybe even yourself … yep, I see you raising your hand, albeit slowly. …

It’s ok, no one is judging, I’m raising mine too. I admit, I’m a bit of a packrat myself. You just never know when that piece of shiny ribbon will come in handy.

I bet you have special places for such things, a drawer, a box; this way you know exactly where they are when it comes time to use them.

You argue, “I might need it someday, or ‘member the time I threw such-and-such out just to find I needed it two weeks later?”

As a nature guide, when I come upon a mound of sticks, I’ll stop and ask if anyone knows where the term “packrat” came from and most people will say they don’t.

I then tell them about California’s Big-eared Woodrat, formally known as the Dusky-footed Woodrat, aka “packrat” or “trader” and why some of us share her name.
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Monday October 24, 2016
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Rat Lungworm Disease Transmitted via Snails

by Donna M. Walker

Here’s a very good reason not to eat snails … just in case you were thinking of picking one up and popping it into your mouth, yuck, right?!

Who would have thought the little slimes, with long beady eyes, could be such a health hazard?

You think you’re safe because you’d never eat a snail? Not so. …

Why? – Rats! They carry a parasite called “rat lungworm,” Angiostrongylus cantonensis.

The larvae of lungworm pass through a rat’s feces, a.k.a. rat droppings, snails then come in contact with the droppings, leaving trails of infected slime behind (grounds for washing lettuce, not once but thrice!).

The result, if infected, is meningitis. In humans, juvenile worms migrate to the brain; as adults, they live in the arterioles of the ileocecal area (blood vessels around a valve between the small and large intestines). Lovely.

Rat Lungworm uses rats as its host.

Rat Lungworms use rats as their  host.

Washing fruits and vegetables thoroughly is the best preventative measure against Rat Lungworm disease.

If snails are not part of your diet then how do these worms get into your system? Remember, I mentioned washing your lettuce, not once but thrice? If you eat salad or raw vegetables that an infested snail has come in contact with, you could very well ingest the parasite.

Rat Lungworm disease causes Eosinophilic meningitis. Contaminated produce is the main culprit from trails of slime left by snails, slugs, and flatworms. And, it’s not just humans that can become infected; dogs, even horses have been known to become a host for Rat Lungworm.

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Wednesday April 13, 2016
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Native Bees, Honeybees, and Mimics

by Donna M. Walker

“Auntie, auntie, the biting flies are chasing me! You know – the ones with the little yellow shorts!” exclaimed Calvatina’s niece as she ran inside the house. …

Springtime Pollinators

It’s spring and all that buzzing you hear isn’t just coming from honeybees! . . .

The Honeybee arrived in North America during the 17th century via European settlers but did you know that we already had an abundance of native bees? – 4,000 different species, to be precise.

These resourceful native insects, unlike honeybees, have managed to escape domestication.

Native bees, including bumblebees and mimics, have been pollinating the continent’s flowers for eons.

The wind was blowing the petals of this poppy making it difficult for a honey bee to gather her pollen. Beeing the bee-lover that I am, I held the petals firm so she could keep pollinating the poppy. I think I saw her wave an antennae in thanks. …

Honeybee on red poppy.

Most people don’t realize that native bees are still around and play an important role in pollination. It’s not all about the honeybee; we need to protect our native bees as well.

For instance, the European honeybee doesn’t know how to pollinate tomatoes or eggplants (What would salad be without tomatoes, or Eggplant Parmesan without the eggplant?).
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Thursday February 11, 2016
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California’s Crazy Ant Invasion

by Donna M. Walker

There’s a new invasive species of ants making their way to California from the eastern and southern states.

Actually, they’ve already arrived but not in large numbers like in Florida and Texas.

How do they travel across country?

Map of both the Crazy and Argentine ant invasion into the U.S. By way of human transportation – potted plants, cargo, trash, boxes, etc.

The Tawny (AKA Rasberry) Crazy Ant has made its way from Argentina and Brazil into the U.S. causing millions of dollars in damage.

If these Crazy ants are anything like their cousins from Argentina, the invasive Argentine Ants, then we could be in for another supercolony of ants crawling all over the state.

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Tuesday December 1, 2015
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by Donna M. Walker

Protecting California’s Monarch Butterflies

Black and orange wings soar through the air for thousands of milesthen flutter gracefully towards the ground where they find rest in southern and central California trees.

Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) Male – Note the two black spots on the bottom wings.

Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) Male – Note the two black spots on the bottom wings.

If there is one insect, because of its beauty, that has captured the heart of Californians, it’s the Monarch Butterfly … unless of course, you happen to be an entomologist, then you probably find beauty in Jerusalem crickets – as only an entomologist could and would!

Migrating Monarchs

In southern California, once fall approaches, Monarch butterflies take refuge from their long journey south to the sheltering trees of San Diego, Orange, and Los Angeles Counties.

Map of Monarch Butterflies Fall Migration

Map of Monarch Butterflies Fall Migration

There are two populations of Monarch butterflies in North America that are separated by the Rocky Mountains; each with different migration patterns.

The Monarchs east of the Rockies migrate south to spend their winters in Mexico.

West of the Rockies, here in California, Monarchs migrate from Canada to the coast of central and southern California where they overwinter.

Wintering Monarchs

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Thursday May 28, 2015
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There is no Poop Fairy!

Cat and Dog on Play Date

Our pets are our family

Animal lovers absolutely love their pets. Pets are part of the family but they are incapable of cleaning after themselves!

Dogs poop, cats puke. Lucky us – we get to clean it up!

When the cat spits up a hairball, all of a sudden he’s my cat!

Normally, I wouldn’t use “pets and pests” in the same sentence but, our friendly companions do attract certain kinds of pests, especially dogs.

OK, so maybe I’m biased since I’ve always had several cats, to the point of bordering on “Crazy Cat Lady” . . . but – cats cover it up, keeps the flies away you know. …

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Thursday April 2, 2015
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Bees in the Spring

Honey Bee on leaf

Spring is here and the bees are gearing up their pollen baskets ready for the spring flower harvest. Springtime is the buzziest time for honeybees; all the flowers, including wildflowers, are in full bloom.
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Friday December 19, 2014
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Wintertime Pests

Pests in California

Wintertime Pests in Southern California.

In Southern California, one of the ways you can tell its wintertime is when you see Californians remove their sunglasses! Otherwise, we natives (and those from afar) enjoy sunshine all year round, (wildlife and insects included).

Winter in sunny Southern California is so mild that insects and wildlife enjoy not only the weather but the abundance of resources California has to offer, including our pantries. Plus, when the weather does turn cold and rainy (at least for California standards), insects and rodents are not shy about making your home their home during our short winter months. Read more

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Thursday December 4, 2014
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Wintering Mice

Winter has arrived in sunny California, just in time for the House mouse to find a warm and cozy place to build a nest. …

There’s a Mouse in the House!

Mice and humans have lived together for eons in a “commensal” relationship, meaning they live on the same premises and eat at the same table (sometimes, literally!).

Three mice and cheese

Three mice discussing how to get a very large chunk of cheese back to their “living quarters.”

People are often afraid of mice and given their propensity to carry disease, they probably should be but others have a love of mice and keep them as pets.

For decades, mice in literature have captured the imagination of both children and adults. Mice figures in anthropomorphic drawings depict them with human characteristics in stories about these tiny-tailed creatures.
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