Thursday, September 3, 2009

Wild Fact #990 - The Sweet Smell of Pheromones in the Winter!

The kids are back in school, summer is behind us now and the only thing we have to look forward to are the cold, snow and ice (in some parts of the world anyway such as the Yukon Territory).  This is the time we rush out to by our winter boots and coats to prepare for the extreme cold just around the corner; however, we are not the only ones getting ready for the dreary days ahead.  Ladybird beetles (lady bugs) need to find a place to bunker down and hibernate for the winter. Around this time of the year lady bugs all over will start taking flight and heading long distances to find their winter home (kind of like retirees going to Florida). The lady bug will hibernate over winter under sticks and rocks but also prefers the sunny-side of buildings. They will crawl into the cracks, door frames and window panes but sometimes they accidentally find themselves inside the house. If this happens the best thing you can do is ignore them or transport them to a nice cool shelter such as the cracks of the window or door frame.

At this point you are probably thinking that this isn't a very interesting fact. A bug hibernating for the winter is not a new concept so where am I going with this?  The fascinating fact about lady bird beetles can be summed up in one word, "pheromones". This is just a fancy word for a special chemical that can send signals to other individuals  There has been speculation that pheromones are what causes "love at first sight" in humans, but I digress. If a lady bug finds a great spot to overwinter then they will most likely return to that spot over and over again.  They are able to do this by leaving pheromones at the hibernating spot and year after year they can follow their nose right back to that nice, comfy, cool shelter.  This pheromone may also attract dozens of other lady bugs to the same spot so you may end up with a very large number of cute little lady bugs in your home over the winter.

Lady Bug Quick Fact:  Lady bugs born in the summer are orange in colour, however, after they have overwintered once they become the typical red.

Did you find this post interesting? Do you have a lady bug infestation during the winter? Comments?

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  1. Hey Nathan,

    I'm loving the blog! How long do ladybugs live for? Are the same ones returning year after year or are others smelling the pheromones from other bugs and going to that spot?

    Keep up the good work!

    P.S. We miss you down here.


  2. Nathan I must agree with Stacey we're loving this blog. Great work. I think it would be ideal for teachers to show it to elementary children everyday in their science class.

  3. Thanks for reading Stacey! I appreciate it!
    Ladybugs will generally live for 1-2 years so they will be the ones following their 'scent' back to that perfect sleeping spot. Although, I believe other lady bugs can pick up on the pheromones. One of the benefits of this pheromone is the fact that it helps lady bugs congregate together throughout the winter (we are just not sure why they want to congregate).

    I hope this answers your question and I miss you guys a lot.

  4. Using this blog for elementary children could be useful. It would only take a moment in the morning to review a quick fact and possibly have a discussion. Any teachers out there have a thought on this? It is definitely an interesting suggestion and I would be all for these facts being brought to the schools.

    Thanks for the comment!

  5. Dear Mr Nathan, Thanks a lot for your nice words. And your blog is outstanding awsome, due to the Topic selection and writing style. Great. I suggest you to keep a recent comment widgets in this blog.

  6. Reading the other comments answered the question for me about their lifespan. We get infested with them every winter.

    On another note, we have a bit of a discussion going on here about spruce bugs. Karlee was told today that is not their proper name, that they are actually pine beetles. Any truth to this statement?
    Aunt Bev

  7. That is a good question! I believe I know what you mean when you say "spruce bugs" since that it is what I call them too. For other people reading these are the black bugs (about 2" long) with long antennae that have been known to bite humans.

    To be honest with you, it is difficult for me to distinguish exactly what type of bug it is without having a specimen to actually key out and classify.

    I do believe that they are a type of Pine Sawyer Beetle (there are various species). Whether it is indeed a Pine Beetle or not, it is definitely part of the Longhorned Beetle Family (Popular member of this family is the Asian Longhorn beetle that was wrecking havoc in southern Ontario a while back). Although your "Spruce Bug"/Pine Beetle will bite humans, they prefer trees and are capable of causing extreme damage to woodlots so much research has been done in trying to control these beetles to protect the forest industries assets.

    I know this isn't the clearest answer but to sum up, I believe they are actually a Pine Beetle as oppose to a "spruce bug".

    I hope this helps!

  8. Heeey my big cousin Nathan. This is looking really well! Glad to see that your having fun with everything that your doing.

    Love you,

    Karlee Lawrence.