Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

ladybugs are gathering

The ladybugs are gathering. Every fall I see this happen and wonder how do they know? We haven't had a hard freeze yet, not even much rain. Wednesday it was an unseasonably warm 70°F as I sat out on the new patio off our bedroom, where the warmth of the sun was making it very inviting to just sit with no purpose. Since I had just redone my closet to make the clothes ready for fall and winter, I was ready to just be.

With BB (long-haired black cat) on the chaise lounge and me a chair next to the table, I began to realize how many ladybugs I was seeing. They were flying in from all around. I didn't count them but am guessing maybe one hundred crawling along the walls and looking for a crack to get inside.

When we bought this farm in 1977, we did not know its shake roof made it a very inviting place for ladybugs to winter over. The attic was easy to access and protected them from the worst of the winter. There would be thousands up there who must have come from all around. We sure never see that many during the summer. Every year they would do that and with spring fly out to disappear again.

Reading up a bit on ladybugs, I learned they can actually live a year or two-- [Coccinellidae]. Maybe that explains why they knew where to return. But communicating with each other, now that I have no idea as they don't cluster much together until fall with their eagerness to find shelter. Being predator insects, they have to hunt for their meals.

The problem for their tidy arrangement on the farm came when we had to replace our roof. Sadly with fire danger as it is in the country, we decided we could not use cedar shakes. That was a hard decision as a shake roof is a wonderful thing for cooling in the summer and keeping the house warm in the winter-- that is until the spark from a forest or grass fire lands on it; then it's the end of the home.

The new roof was by necessity much tighter and the ladybugs had to figure out something new. They now try to get into the house which I don't mind as I put them into the closed porch where I have a few houseplants and wish them well for the winter. Come spring I will see a few dead ones but also those who suddenly appear and start crawling around to find a way out. I used to think maybe they had hatched in the house but that's not how it happens. These lived over and will lay their eggs for the new ladybugs on plants near where they hope will be aphids.

Ladybugs can nip a person. I have had them do it. It's not like a sting nor does it leave a mark but it does hurt. I do my best to let them hibernate somewhere inside until winter is over, but our home can no longer accommodate the numbers of the attic.

I do wonder though how they know to come in and is this a hint for me that winter is soon to arrive? When we walked the other day, we saw a couple of woolly caterpillars on the gravel road, which we always toss to safety as they end up smashed otherwise by passing automobiles. Their black and brown bands were even. That's supposed to mean something but not sure what.


robin andrea said...

I had no idea that ladybugs actually lived through the winter. I always imagine bugs getting the next generation all set by fall, and then dying. I like that they come to your house every winter. What a wonderful seasonal marker.

Parapluie said...

I am totally charmed by the ladybug gathering.

joared said...

I can appreciate the issue of shake roofs as when we re-roofed we had to do away with shake, too, as did others in our city.

Interesting about the lady bugs. Never heard they could actually nip.

My mother who grew up on a farm in the early part of the twentieth century could predict many weather happenings you describe -- when it would rain long before the dark clouds appeared, creatures revealing signs of winter.

I get so disgusted with dragging out of the woodchucks to predict the end of winter. Don't they know how meaningless it is with the need to wait until the woodchuck chooses to emerge, not to have some human pulling him out?

Annotated Margins said...

All down the coast last week, T— and I were rescuing fat woolly bears from traffic. I do think the lady bugs disappeared today in the rain. (We have an entire wall covered with T—'s lady bug paintings.)

Mary Lou said...

I have not seen a wooly bear this year, but I have seen a few lady bugs. When I bought this house NEW 18 years ago, come Oct, they were in every corner. I left them there, and in the spring they all left. At the annex for the Playhouse, where we store all out props and costumes, we found THOUSANDS hibernating. THOUSANDS!

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Fascinating! I cannot imagine seeing 100's of Ladybugs let alone thousands....And that they spend the winter with you and Farm Boss....truly fantastic!