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Skaggs: Keep winter visitors out of your home
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How to make a light trap: The Ohio State University extension offers directions on how to make your own trap for lady beetles.

You might first think someone's having a little fun at your expense, but if you're being invaded by lady bugs, it is no Halloween prank. Now is the time of year when multicolored Asian lady beetles start moving into Georgia homes.

In the fall of the year, multicolored Asian lady beetles begin to seek cavities where they will spend the winter hibernating.

They require areas that will stay cool and dry and offer concealment. If you do not want to share your home with these beetles all winter, what can you do?

Keep the beetles out

Use good quality silicone or latex caulk to seal cracks and small holes in exterior walls, especially around windows and doors. Install screens (20-mesh max) over all vents, and replace or repair damaged door and window screens.

Also, don't put away window screens too early. Leave screens in place until Christmas. And, install tight-fitting door sweeps and a rubber seal around the garage door.

Reduce beetle numbers entering the home

Just before the first frost, spray around outside doors and windows with a pyrethroid (e.g. permethrin) insecticide labeled for exterior application.

Look for additional openings, including holes through which electrical, phone and cable lines enter the home. While spraying these holes will not prevent beetles from going through them, the beetles will pick up enough toxicant to kill them later.

Kill beetles inside home

If beetles are inside the home, use a commercial black light trap in a dark room or at night. Place the light trap in the room with highest beetle numbers. Leave the light on all night, and empty the collection container often.

Also, you can put a little cornstarch, talc or baby powder on the "wings" of the trap so that the beetles fall easily into the collection container. (Otherwise, they will be able to climb off.) Most traps are free-standing and can sit on a table or floor.

One such trap recommended by university experts is from Southeastern Insectaries in Perry. You can reach them at 877-967-6777 or 478-988-9412. The trap costs $140 plus shipping.

While multicolored Asian lady beetles can nip you with their mouthparts, causing a little pinch, they are harmless and cannot break the skin. When irritated, they release a foul-smelling defensive fluid, which many people find objectionable.

These beetles are excellent predators, spending their summers eating aphids, thrips, scales and other pests on our plants. But large numbers of beetles in a home can be annoying, so it is understandable that people would prefer to keep them outdoors.

After all, you pay the mortgage, so you get to decide who spends the winter in your house.

Billy Skaggs is an agricultural agent and Hall County extension coordinator. Phone: 770-531-6988. Fax: 770-531-3994.