Pleasant Valley Farm

  (Tionesta, Pennsylvania)
Real Family Farming in Tionesta, PA
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Invasion!

I had planned to try making a large batch of egg noodles today, but the farm was invaded yesterday.  Every fall (and spring too) we have a few days to a week of ladybug invasions.  When I went out to get the mail, a trip that takes all of 2 minutes, I had to brush 4 of them off of me before reentering the house.  The sides of the house were covered with thousands of them.  Hundreds also find their way into our house, as they squeeze through the cracks in the wooden siding.  It's next to impossible to seal up a 100+ year old house from something that small.  So any plans for food making that can be put on hold are for the next few days...no one wants to eat food that has had bugs crawling all over it!

Now I knew one of the best ways to rid yourself of the ladybugs was to suck them up in a vacuum, but they let off this stinky odor when you do.  So I googled "ladybug invasion"  to see if there were any other ideas.  I didn't find much help, but I did learn some interesting facts as to why it is such a problem.  Firstly, these aren't the ladybugs of my childhood, which never seemed to come indoors. They are Asian Lady Beetles, imported to this country and then released.  While our native PA ladybugs die before winter, leaving eggs to hatch in the spring, these Asian bugs winter over.  So the hundreds I have in my house right now will find a place in the walls, attic, or somewhere to overwinter out of the cold.  Then I will see the same bugs invade my home again in the spring when they wake up from their hiding places and want to go back outside.

Ladybugs are great organic helpers.  They love to eat aphids, which can cause serious damage to any plant, so they are very beneficial to have around. The reason that I am dealing with this menace right now is because the Asian Lady Beetle eats aphids more aggressively.  So companies who specialize in biologic controls want to sell you the "best" bug that will naturally take care of the problem.  Problem is, this bug is an alien species.  It has no predators to keep the numbers in check, and it isn't used to our climate, so it uses people homes to stay alive.  While annoying and smelly, these bugs really don't do much environmental damage.  I have to look into my glass before taking a drink and I'll have to clean the dead bugs out of my hanging light fixtures in a few weeks, but those are just minor inconveniences.  It's much scarier when it is a bug (or disease) that is uncontrollably killing parts of the native species in your local environment.  We worry about the Emerald Ash Borer killing the 200 year old tree in our front yard, but there is absolutely nothing we can do to protect it other than letting a local agency hang a purple box in it over the summer to check for the presence of these devastating beetles.  (so far, we've been Emerald-free)  It's just another reminder to me that if I want to introduce a beneficial bug, plant, or other organism onto my farm, I have a responsibility to do my homework and make sure that critter is going to do what I want it to without it also becoming a problem, either for me or for lots of my neighbors.  After all, the true spirit of the word "organic" is to utilize the natural resources to produce crops on your land.  This means without unnatural inputs, like chemical fertilizers.   I would argue that non-native species can drastically alter the local environment at the expense of local, native plants & animals, and that's not any more natural then the chemicals which do the same.

 
 
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