Today was the day when I thought, who's idea was it to buy an old house in rural Ohio? Because today was the day I tackled the dead bugs in the window wells.
I heaved the vacuum up and around the sharp turns of the attic stairs and shoved the business end of the suction hose into the window well. It took several passes before I cleared the scene of bodies. Aw, man, it was gritty work, even at arm's length. They rattled as they zoomed down the plastic tube.
The reddish bugs look like sweet little ladybugs, but they're imposters. They're Asian lady beetles. I guess you get called a bug when you're beloved, and a beetle when you're not, unless it's the 1960s and you're a mop topped young lad from Liverpool. They're orange to yellow-orange in color, they bite, they give off a bitter-smelling defensive chemical that can leave a yellow stain your drapes and carpets. They have a nasty habit of climbing up toward the light fixtures in the ceiling, then falling into your lap or onto your book, like one did the other day. Their Latin name is Harmonia axyridis, and I'd love to be ridis of them.
Like most non-native species, the Asian lady beetle was a good motive wrapped up in a bad idea. Penn State University's website tells me that multicolored Asian lady beetles were introduced into this country in Pennsylvania, from Japan, by the good folks heading up our ag policy at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They were seen as a way to help control aphids and scale insects. This was in 1978 and 1981, when everything Japan did seemed to be better than what we were doing in the States, from automobiles to electronics. Guess the USDA thought the daintily-named Coccinella septumpunctata was not up to the task, busy as she was entertaining toddlers and flying away home to care for her kids.
Just like a lady bug. So conflicted about their work-family obligations. Always leaving the garden when there are fires to put out at home.
To be fair, Penn State's entomologists think our current infestation of Asian lady beetles came from a cargo ship in New Orleans, and not from the USDA's bug dump, but that still doesn't boost the feds' move into the genius category. The thing about Harmonia axyridis is that she overwinters inside structures like my home, crawling in through the many cracks and openings under the eaves, around the windows, and near vents. Penn State uses the word inundate. Remember, these are scientists in the entomology department writing this, not the poets in the English Department.
The flies are a mystery. They're little black ones that drowse about, batting themselves silly against the windowpanes. I don't think they're houseflies, even though they're in my house. They don't have those grey racing stripes. They're not buzzing around my garbage cans or my food. They seem interested in...well, the windows. That's all they want to do, get outside. And yet, they're inside. Dying.
Those who couldn't make it to the Bug Cemetery in the attic window ended up croaking on the carpet. Imagine my displeasure, rolling the vacuum over them. I pretended they were spilled raisins.
Okay, silver lining time here, friends. Asian lady beetles and black house flies? I'll take them any day over New York City cockroaches.