It must have been late last October last year when I encountered my first Asian Beetle. I noticed a slight movement across the bathroom floor as I passed the door. I put my glasses on and retraced my steps for a closer look.
There it was, about the size of the tip of my little finger. I remember thinking, “Hmm, so this is what happens to the bright red lady bugs of summer. They fade to light orange.
I observed the bug’s really slow progress across the floor and remembered the old rhyme, “Lady bug, lady bug, fly away home. Your house is on fire and your children alone.” An example of non-violence from the good old days. I also remembered concluding long ago that that bug was never going to get home in time to save her kids.
So, whether from empathy or ignorance, I let that faded ladybug go peacefully, if slowly, on its way. I completely ignored my dear departed mother’s dictum, “If you see one bug, you can bet there are 30 more in hiding.
Several days later I found another tan beetle with black spots crawling on the sink. I remembered what Mom said and sent it on a cruise down the drain. Other bugs that appeared one at a time were eliminated in various “kind” ways.
Then in March, I looked up at the ceiling in the little room and counted seven faded lady bugs crawling. I told my husband Bill, “We gotta get rid of them”, or in words that senior citizens would remember, “Quick Henry, the Flit!”
We were going away that afternoon, so before we went Bill sprayed the ceiling with a “safe for humans and pets” spray.
At the family gathering I mentioned our buggy invaders. My daughter looked shocked and stated, “Mom, those bugs are beneficial! You can’t just kill them!”
“So how do you suggest we get rid of them?”
“Well, you just sweep them into a dustpan and put them outside.”
“Now that’s really humane,” her brother agreed. “Just heave them out there into that cold wind and watch them freeze to death.”
It was a lively discussion as our children suggested what we could or should about out insect invasion. At least they seemed to enjoy immensely their visions of Dad and Mom gathering up buckets of beetles by various means and distributing them to sheltered areas so they could do all kinds of buggy beneficial things this summer.
When we returned home we found seven beetle bodies on the floor and 32 live ones crawling slowly across the ceiling.
I remembered another of my mother’s observations, Kill one bug and 30 will come to the funeral.” Considering we had killed seven it looked like a lot more were coming, and they had to walk through the spray to get there which meant even more were coming.
I could scrub the insecticide off the ceiling or feel really guilty about killing beneficial bugs. I chose to feel guilty as I swept up bodies and threw them out into the cold wind.
A few days later I discovered they have wings. I was talking on the phone when I looked up and saw one of them crawling down the pull chain on the fan. As I watched, it sprouted wings and flew toward me. I felt like I was in a Stephen King novel, “The Revenge of the Faded Lady Bugs.”
I called the Extension Office for some expert advice. They told me that my visitors are Asian Beetles. They apparently wintered in our attic. They are beneficial, not harmful — a statement that apparently overlooks the psychological effect of having several thousand creepy crawlers wintering somewhere in your home.
The whole beetle army is supposed to move out now that spring has sprung. I do most sincerely hope that they make it because I don’t know enough bug language to make “Exit” signs for them.
I do know we’ll be checking and plugging or screening any openings they might enter through next fall. Someone else can run the Asian Beetle winter motel/resort for them next season.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This column was first published in the Greenville Advocate on April 16, 1997.