Of all the bugs out there, ladybugs are some of the most popular. Their image shows up on clothes and interior décor, and plenty of people get excited when a random ladybug happens to land on them outside. But spotting ladybugs inside is a different story.
Ladybugs go through something called diapause, which is kind of like hibernation, during the winter. In diapause, they’ll find a warm and cozy spot where they hunker down and live off of their own energy reserves to get through the colder months. “They are looking for places to spend the winter,” says Kristian Holstrom, a program associate in the pest management office at Rutgers University. He points out that ladybugs tend to move en masse. “They communicate with each other via pheromones, so they release an odor to tell the other ones that this is a good spot,” he says.
Unfortunately, that warm and cozy spot can be your house. Homeowners across the country are finding more ladybugs indoors as the weather turns cooler. And, with that, it’s only natural to wonder how to get rid of ladybugs in your house. Entomologists (aka bug experts) break it down.
What are ladybugs, again?
Ladybugs—which are not all female, by the way—are actually called lady beetles and they belong to the family Coccinellidae, according to Howard Russell, M.S., an entomologist at Michigan State University. Fun fact: In Europe, ladybugs are called “ladybirds,” says Nancy Troyano, Ph.D., a board-certified entomologist and director of operations education and training for Rentokil North America.
All ladybugs aren’t created equal: Troyano points out that there are more than 500 different types of bugs that we tend to call ladybugs. However, they’re all usually less than a ¼ inch long and have a roundish shape with an orange or red back, Russell says.
Why do ladybugs go indoors?
It’s not just you that’s seeing more ladybugs inside right now—it’s happening all over, and even to entomologists. “I am seeing hundreds of them around my home,” Russell says. Holstrom also says he’s seen plenty of ladybugs in his house.
But…why now? “In the fall, when the weather becomes cool, ladybugs will flock to buildings and look for an opening to enter to safely wait out the cold winter months,” Troyano says. But, she points out, ladybugs may head indoors, only to try to go back out again if temperatures are fluctuating, which they tend to do a lot in early fall.
“At the first sign of cold weather, ladybugs will likely seek shelter in homes, but may resurface and try to return outside if it is an unusually warm day or as temperatures rise,” Troyano says. And that can be why you suddenly see them around your place.
“The problem is, when they come into your house, it messes up the whole mechanism of diapause,” says entomologist Roberto M. Pereira, Ph.D., a research scientist with the University of Florida. “They expect to find someplace to hide but they come in and it’s warm. They end up trapped inside the house where there is good ‘weather.’”
How can you prevent ladybugs from coming into your home?
Ladybugs like to settle somewhere there’s a void, like window and door seals. “However, clusters of insects have been found on exposed surfaces in attics, false ceilings, and crawlspaces,” Troyano says.
She recommends doing a few things to keep ladybugs out:
- Inspect your home for cracks, holes and other spots ladybugs could squeeze into. If you can, seal any holes or cracks you find.
- Make sure your windows and door frames are sealed tightly.
- Install door sweeps beneath gaps under your doors, including your garage door.
- Repair any holes and tears in window screens.
- Give outdoor plants a good inspection for ladybugs before bringing them inside.
If you have the time and money (and are really experiencing a ladybug issue), Holstrom suggests removing the siding around your windows and sealing them from the outside. “The boards that encase your house have small gaps around the windows,” he explains. “The beetles get behind your siding and penetrate your house through those gaps. There are inevitably little spaces where they can creep out behind your trim and into the house.”
How to get rid of ladybugs in your home
You have a few options for getting rid of ladybugs in your home. But, while you might read online that certain herbs and essential oils will help keep ladybugs away, Holstrom says those hacks are unlikely to be helpful.
Try these tricks instead:
- Vacuum them up. The safest and most efficient way you can get rid of ladybugs in your home is simply to vacuum them up, Troyano says. Meaning, use the nozzle of your vacuum or handheld and just suck them up as you see them. Then, dump them outside, ideally away a solid distance from your windows and doors. But Russell has a warning: “Be aware that they may stink up your vacuum cleaner.”
- Scoop them up. If you just spot one or two ladybugs, Pereira recommends simply brushing them into a container and escorting them out. “They do fly, so you have to move fast,” Troyano warns.
- Use a special spray outdoors. Holstrom points out that ladybugs are beneficial insects that like to eat pests, so killing them isn’t ideal. But, if you can’t take the situation anymore, he suggests using a spray outside your home like Ortho Home Defense. “Spray it around surfaces where they might enter your house,” Holstrom says. The spray leaves a residual behind that can be toxic to the ladybugs, he explains.
One thing you definitely don’t want to do is squish these bugs, Pereira says. “They have juices inside that will stain fabric and other things,” he points out.
If you’re seeing high numbers of ladybugs inside and vacuuming and other techniques aren’t doing the trick, Troyano recommends calling in an exterminator for help. “Your local pest control expert can conduct a thorough inspection of your property and put a prevention program in place before a problem arises to help keep these pesky pests out,” she says.