Whatever Possessed Me to Write About this Subject
An article by AC Contributor Maria Roth about silverfish (click here for her article, and see how she was also inspired to write about bugs!) and how they can survive while they are trapped inside light fixtures by feeding on the remains of dead insects inspired me to do some more research on those dead bugs that end up in light fixtures-namely, ladybugs. Every fall, the overhead fluorescent lights in the room that is used for choir rehearsal at the church I am a member of are decorated with little black things. It is quite challenging to try to affect an expression of joy and peace while one is gazing heavenward, only to have one’s eye fall on dead bug carcasses.
What I Learned
I learned that those bugs are called Coccinellids by entomologists (bug people), and there are at least 450 species of those in North America alone. I learned that they are only called ladybugs in the United States; practically everywhere else on the planet they are known as ladybird beetles, or just ladybirds. Entomologists prefer the name coccinellids, which comes from the Latin name for the family Coccinellidae, or ladybird beetles, as the beetles are neither birds (Duh!) nor bugs (see, beetles are not the same thing as simple bugs-I sort of remember this from Invertebrate biology; it has to do with the outer covering over their wings, and other stuff) I also learned that they are considered good luck almost all over the world, and many different countries have traditional rhymes that children recite while they are making a wish and letting a ladybug fly away.
What Else I Learned
The name ladybird comes from the middle Ages when they were known as “the beetle of Our Lady.” Farmers of the day were having trouble with aphids infesting their crops, and they prayed to the Virgin Mary for relief-the ladybird beetles appeared, and their favorite food is the aphid. One ladybird beetle can eat up to 50 aphids in one day and up to 5000 aphids during its lifespan. The seven spots on the seven-spotted ladybird beetle were said to represent the seven joys and sorrows.
More Entomological Trivia
In actuality, the number of spots varies on the wings of a coccinellid, and it is just a myth that you can tell the age of such an insect by the number of its spots. Those spots are always black, and the rest of the beetle is red, orange, or yellow. These are colors found in nature that signal other animals to “Stay away from me! I taste yucky!” Another thing common to the Coccinellidae family is that its members are capable of disambiguation, or reflex bleeding. If a lady bug, I mean, ladybird, or do I mean a coccinellid, is startled, it will emit a bit of yellowish fluid that gives off a rather foul and bitter odor.
How to Coax Them to Leave a Room
Since hordes of these beetles come inside when the weather turns cooler to seek warmth (which explains the dead bugs in the fluorescent lights), this can become a real problem if they are swarming near anything that you don’t want to get stained. That yellow is hard to wash off! Experts suggest using a shop vac with a pad of some kind underneath to gently remove the beetles if they are using your home for warmth, or purchasing a Ladybug Black Light Trap, which uses radiating black light to lure them harmlessly inside. Or, you can try making your own Ladybug Black Light Trap: click here or here
Where the Dead Bugs in the Lights Come From
Farmers and gardeners like ladybugs because the beetles eat aphids. Often, though, ladybugs themselves stuck inside places once they come indoors. When the beetles are trapped inside, they often get dehydrated and can be seen taking a drink of water. This is why there are often so many dead ladybug carcasses in the overhead light fixtures. Just in time for Halloween!