|Ladybugs found in and around Ithaca, Cornell collections|
Ladybugs are beneficial; they eat aphids, mealybugs, and other pests, and brighten up the day. But they have their drawbacks: they have a bitter odor (which you will discover if one lands in your cocoa) and they bite (but tiny bites, and not too often).
We have a lot of ladybugs here in New York state - around 90 species. But over the past 20 years, some of our native species have become harder to find. One of these is the nine-spotted ladybug, once so common that in 1989 the NY State legislature adopted it as the official sate insect. But by 1993 scientists couldn't find a singe nine-spotted lady anywhere in the northeast.
While native populations declined, introduced species had no trouble establishing themselves. The seven-spotted ladybug was imported from Europe to help fight pests in farmer's fields. A more recent immigrant is the multi-colored Asian ladybug - the one you are more likely to find in clusters inside your home. These imports range in color from pink to orange and sport anywhere from 0 - 18 spots on their hard outer wings.
If you do find a bunch of ladybugs in your house, help them get back outside. If you have a lot, put a clean bag in your vacuum and suck them up - then release them outside.
And if you love ladybugs, get involved in the Lost Ladybug Project. It's a fun way to learn more about this bug-of-the-month and help scientists learn more about ladybug populations.