Ladybugs, also known as ladybirds or lady beetles, are one of the most easily recognized insects. While most people are familiar with their overall red color and black spots, ladybugs come in all shapes and sizes. There are more than 6,000 species of ladybugs worldwide!
Ladybugs will gather in large groups and utilize supercooling to prevent freezing in winter which stabilizes them until Spring. The most common places to find ladybugs in or near your home during winter include attics, vents, garages, sheds, firewood piles, basements, tree cavities and leaf litter.
There are certain places that ladybugs prefer to overwinter in which is why they can become a nuisance to some homeowners. Below, we will cover how ladybugs make it through winter, where they prefer to go and why, and how you can make sure they don’t become rent-free tenants in your home this winter.
Do Ladybugs Go Dormant During Winter?
You may be wondering what happens to ladybugs during the winter months. Do they freeze to death? Do they migrate to warmer places and come back next year?
Ladybugs do actually go dormant during the cold winter months depending on where you live and how cold it gets. While ladybugs do go dormant during the winter months, (known as diapause), being in diapause is not what keeps them from freezing to death. They actually go into diapause so they can utilize supercooling to keep the water in their bodies from freezing.
Read below to learn what supercooling is and how ladybugs use supercooling to survive winter temperatures.
When temperatures start getting colder, ladybug’s metabolism slows down and they begin looking for a place to hunker down for the winter. Ladybugs will generally congregate together with dozens or even thousands of other ladybugs to help them survive the winter months!
What do you call a group of ladybugs when they’re all together? It’s not a herd of ladybugs. It’s actually called a ‘loveliness of ladybugs’.
Some ladybugs can survive temperatures as low as 23 degrees Fahrenheit for 200 days! They are able to do this by (1) moving to physically protected areas to avoid the coldest temperatures and/or (2) supercooling, which keeps the fluids in the body from crystallizing or freezing.
Ladybugs also go dormant due to the lack of food available during the winter. Most ladybug species are predators and they rely on the availability of other insects to feed on for survival.
Since most other insects go dormant or pass away when winter rolls around, ladybugs go dormant to decrease the amount of nutrients they need to survive until all of the food returns in spring.
What is Supercooling and How Do Ladybugs Supercool Themselves?
Supercooling is the ability of water to cool below the freezing point of 32 degrees Fahrenheit without actually forming ice crystals. For ice to freeze at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, it must contain a particle such as dust in order to form ice crystals.
If no contaminant is present in the water for crystals to begin forming around, water can reach negative 36 degrees Fahrenheit before it begins to crystallize.
Ladybugs will reduce the amount of water as much as possible in their bodies when they sense the need for supercooling is approaching due to low temperatures. They will also excrete any waste in their bodies to reduce the likelihood that there is anything contaminating the water in their body that would allow it to crystallize at below freezing temperatures.
Due to the reduced amount of water, and the need to keep contaminants such as food out of the body, ladybugs must go into diapause when they utilize supercooling. Diapause slows their metabolism enough for them to survive in this state with little water and no food.
With little water present and no contaminants in the water, a ladybug can survive very cold temperatures in the winter due to supercooling.
What Do Ladybugs Look For In Their Winter Sleeping Spots?
Even though ladybugs are able to avoid freezing using supercooling, they also tend to seek out sheltered places when they go dormant during winter.
Staying in a drier place (not too dry or they will desiccate) further increases their ability to survive the cold of winter by reducing the likelihood that anything will freeze around them while they are dormant. They also seek out a sheltered area for protection while they are in diapause.
Ladybugs also tend to go into diapause with hundreds of other ladybugs in the same place. This provides them with some protection from the cold, but more importantly from predators which could eat them while they rest in their dormant state.
As with many insects, the bright red color of a ladybug is meant to warn would-be predators that they are toxic and don’t taste great. However, not all predators may clue into this colorful warning sign, known as aposematic coloration, and decide to take a bite anyways.
By gathering together in large numbers ladybugs ensure that if their colorful cues don’t deter a predator, their taste will. Once a predator eats one or two ladybugs, and gets that disgusting taste in their mouth, they will leave the remaining ladybugs alone.
How Ladybugs Find Each Other And Where They Stay In The Winter
You may find it amazing that hundreds of little ladybugs can find each other in the same exact place for the winter. How do they do it? Is it because they are all looking for the same set of characteristics which make for the perfect winter home?
While ladybugs are all looking for the same type of spot to spend the winter, they actually use smell to find each other for their long winter nap.
Ladybugs are able to emit a scent, called a pheromone, which is species specific. Once a ladybug has found the perfect spot to spend the winter, they will begin to release their pheromones to call in other ladybugs in the area.
That pheromone calling card can go quite a distance to attract other ladybugs. According to the Smithsonian Institute, some insect pheromones, such as those of the silkworm moth, can attract a mate from up to 30 miles away!
So where are you most likely to find a ladybug, or several hundred, during winter? Here are 10 places you can expect to find them.
1. Leaf Litter
Leaf litter is any dead plant material such as leaves, twigs, bark, and grass clippings. It is also (less frequently) called plant litter. Leaf litter ultimately decomposes and turns into soil.
As leaf litter decomposes, it produces heat. This heat, while only a few degrees warmer than the air depending on how deep it is, can help protect insects during winter.
According to Cornell University, a pile of composting material can reach temperatures greater than 140 degrees Fahrenheit depending on its composition, size, and external temperatures.
While this probably isn’t during the winter, it shows that leaf litter is quite the warm spot!
The leaf litter provides a layer of insulation, like a coat, to help trap heat and protect ladybugs from predators and the unpleasant winter elements such as snow.
Ladybugs, like any other critter, LOVE insulation when the weather drops. So, if you have any exposed insulation – you may find some ladybugs nesting near that. Think of warm areas underneath your subfloor that are insulation in your basement.
Most typically – these areas are things like underneath your dishwasher and around HVAC pipes. Look to see if theres any ladybugs or signs of other rodents near that insulation, especially if you have an older house!
3. Cracks In The Bark Of Trees
Some ladybugs will seek out winter shelter under the bark of trees. There is no species of tree in particular that ladybugs are attracted to. However, they are more likely to hunker down on trees like pines, which have blocky bark with plenty of crevices between the bark plates for ladybugs to tuck themselves in for a long winter nap.
The main goal for ladybugs when choosing a tree with the right bark to spend the winter in is to shelter themselves from the cold wind, rain, and snow while they are dormant.
Ladybugs also want to make sure to hide out from predators that could be looking for a snack.
4. Rotting Logs
Another prime location for ladybugs to spend the winter, rotting logs provide a combination of preferred amenities that both leaf litter and tree bark provide.
The decomposition of the log can produce extra heat similar to leaf litter. The log also has all kinds of crevices that the ladybugs can take shelter in.
They may take shelter in crevices in the bark if it is still intact on the log. They may also go inside the log if it has decomposed enough to create new voids on the inside where ladybugs can shelter from the elements and predators.
Ladybugs may also wiggle their way under the log, between the log and the leaf litter, to take refuge.
5. Tree Cavities
Similar to rotting logs, tree cavities can provide a great overwintering site for ladybugs. The nighttime temperatures in tree cavities can be 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the outside air, depending on how big the tree is. That’s a big difference when it comes to trying not to freeze to death in the middle of winter.
The availability of warmer temperatures along with the shelter from the elements and predators makes tree cavities an appealing place for ladybugs to spend the winter.
6. Crevices Between Rocks
To us, a hard rock does not sound like the best place to choose for a long nap. But for ladybugs, the crevices between rocks have the perfect combination of features they desire for their winter home.
Like any winter hibernation spot for a ladybug, rocks can provide protection from direct contact with winter elements like snow and keep them hidden from predators on the prowl.
Ladybugs don’t just get in between rocks to overwinter, they will also get underneath them to take advantage of the winter shelter rocks can provide.
7. Your House
Just like the first 6 places ladybugs go during winter, your home can provide many of the features ladybugs look for in an overwintering site. It is both warm and provides shelter from the elements and predators.
Ladybugs are not the worst insect you can find in your home.
Unlike some of the other insects that can take up residence in your home (like spiders which can bite or some moths which can permanently damage clothing they feed on) ladybugs are mostly a nuisance.
Ladybugs will not reproduce and lay eggs in your home unlike many other indoor insect pests.
Ladybugs can, when disturbed, emit a fluid from their joints as a defense mechanism to scare predators. You’ve probably experienced this firsthand if you’ve ever tried to hold a ladybug and find yourself left with a stinky, yellow-orange stain on your palm.
Ladybugs can stain clothing or drapes in your home however, unlike the damage moths do to clothing, ladybug stains can be removed.
We recommend OxiClean Odor Blasters Odor & Stain Remover which will take care of any stain or odor ladybugs may leave behind after visiting your closet in the winter.
Keep Humidity Low To Limit Ladybugs During Winter
The one thing that may doom any ladybugs who make it all the way into your home is the humidity level. All insects have an open circulatory system, unlike our circulatory system which is closed.
Rather than getting oxygen into their blood with lungs like we do, insects have a number of small holes in their body called spiracles which are open to the outside environment.
Air enters these spiracles allowing oxygen, as well as moisture, to be taken into the circulatory system of the insect. This is why insects don’t need lungs to breathe!
The downside to the open circulatory system is that while insects can absorb moisture through their spiracles, they can also lose moisture through their spiracles too.
Most insects are happy when there is at least 45 – 50 percent humidity in the air. Once the humidity level drops below 40 percent, certain insects can actually start losing moisture to the air through their spiracles and eventually desiccate or dry out.
Keeping your humidity levels low in your home can discourage many insects from deciding to stay and reproduce in your home.
You can learn more in our in-depth guide about how ladybugs enter your house!
Why Do Ladybugs Seem To Be More Attracted To Certain Buildings?
According to the University of Kentucky, ladybugs are attracted to illuminated, high contrast surfaces when it comes to structures.
Illuminated surfaces tend to be on the southwest facing side of buildings as the Northern hemisphere moves further away from the sun in the fall and winter. High contrast surfaces that attract ladybugs include white gutters along your dark roof or dark shutters on a light colored house.
If you don’t have high contrast colors on your house, or your house remains shaded throughout the day, you likely won’t have to deal with an abundance of ladybugs trying to find their way into your home to overwinter.
If you do have a high contrast colors on your home, it is not likely worth the cost to repaint since there are many other, more affordable, options you can utilize to keep the ladybugs from entering your home.
If you want to keep ladybugs out of your house during the winter months, you can focus on winterizing your home ahead of the temperatures dropping in fall. We will cover how to winterize your home for ladybugs (or any insect) later in this article.
8. Attics and Vents
Your attic offers many of the same benefits as your house does when it comes to serving as an overwintering site for ladybugs. Since heat rises, your attic may not be as warm as the inside of your home. But it is going to be warmer than the outdoor air temperatures!
Most attics aren’t completely sealed, which also makes your attic a much easier place for ladybugs to congregate and spend winter.
We will cover how you can prevent an infestation of ladybugs in your attic later in this article. If you want a quick solution, ladybug light traps are a good option for dim places.
9. Inside Garages
Just like your attic, your garage provides many of the same benefits to overwintering ladybugs as your home.
An added benefit is that humidity isn’t going to be an issue for ladybugs in your garage since your garage typically has similar humidity levels as the outdoor air.
Plus, if your garage is anything like mine, all kinds of nooks and crannies will remain undisturbed all winter where ladybugs can take shelter all winter!
There is a silver lining to ladybugs sheltering in your garage during winter. As soon as you’re ready to start pulling out the hedge trimmers and lawn mower, you will already have a nice population of ladybugs to start reproducing in your yard and garden to help eat all of your unwanted plant pests for you!
If, sadly, your garage sadly does not give you a “starter pack” of ladybugs in the spring, here are 4 ways to attract ladybugs to your garden!
10. Your Shed
While your outdoor shed will not stay as warm as your garage or attic (since it isn’t attached to your house), it will stay warmer than the outside air.
This is exactly what a ladybug is looking for during the winter. Sheds also tend to have even more cracks where ladybugs can get inside than your average house.
If you don’t want ladybugs and other insects spending time in your shed, you can use some of the same winterizing techniques we discuss below to seal up your shed and keep insect pests out.
There is nothing better than cozying up to a wood fire during the winter to keep you and your family warm.
However, the wood pile outside is another attractive place for overwintering ladybugs to make their home. It provides shelter from the winter elements and acts as a hideout from predators.
One way to deter ladybugs from taking up residence in your woodpile is to completely cover it with a tarp during late fall when ladybugs start looking for a place to go into diapause.
It will work even better if you place something heavy around the bottom of the tarp to make it more difficult for any ladybugs to wiggle their way underneath.
Now that you know the 10 places ladybugs go during winter, what about when they return?
When Do Ladybugs Return From “Hibernating”?
According to the University of Nebraska, ladybugs will come out of diapause when the weather begins to warm in the spring. Typically, temperatures need to be above 55 degrees Fahrenheit for ladybugs to end their diapause and go back to normal.
This is also when other insects, which most ladybugs rely on for food, return as well.
It makes sense that once the danger of freezing and lack of food disappear, you can expect ladybugs to begin reappearing to take advantage. Ladybugs can live up to 3 years old, so you may see the same one a few times!
How To Winterize Your Home To Keep Ladybugs Out
Winterizing your home means preparing it for the winter.
This can include turning off your outside spigots so your water pipes don’t freeze, turning your ceiling fan counterclockwise to pull down heat that is rising to the ceiling, and, in this case, sealing up all of the cracks and crevices to keep ladybugs and other insects from taking shelter in your home.
Check The Seals Around Doors and Windows
One of the first places you should think about winterizing are your doors.
If you can see sunlight between the door and the door frame when the door is closed, it is likely time to replace the weather stripping around your door. This is an easy project you can complete yourself or you can always hire a professional!
If you opt to replace your doors weather stripping yourself, you can use some foam weather stripping like this Foam Weather Stripping for Doors and Windows to help keep the heat in!
The next place you’ll want to focus on when it comes to winterizing your home is your windows.
Just like with your doors, ladybugs can squeeze through any tiny cracks that may exist around damaged weather stripping. You can replace the weather stripping using the same product we just mentioned!
Seal Up Cracks, Crevices, and Repair Worn Out Caulk
You should also look at the caulk around your window and door frames. Caulk tends to break down over time due to heat, cold, and rain. Look for any caulk which is no longer doing its job of sealing up cracks, remove it and replace it with a fresh layer of caulk to seal everything up tight.
Your best bet is to head to your local hardware store and see what their recommendation is for you as you may find something on sale!
After making sure your windows and doors are sealed up tight, you’ll want to start thinking about keeping ladybugs out of your attic. The main entry points for your attic are your soffits and vents which are openings into your attic allowing it to ‘breath’.
Check the caulk around your soffits and make sure there aren’t any cracks for ladybugs to get in. For the vents, you’ll want to install a mesh or screen to keep ladybugs from getting in.
When it comes to bug proofing your attic, you need to be careful! Especially if you are planning to use ladders to get to soffits and vents.
It can also be a very difficult process if you live in a multiple-story home or if you have an unfinished attic that limits your ability to move around safely to seal up cracks.
That’s why we recommend you hire a pest control professional to help with bug-proofing your attic to make sure it is done right and done safely. That’s if you’ve had previous issues, of course.
We’ve got you covered when it comes to finding a pest control professional in your area to help with keeping pests out of your home. Just visit our Pest Control Locator Page to find a professional near you!
Can I Use Pesticides To Keep Ladybugs Out of My House?
If sealing up every crack and crevice on your home seems like a monumental task you’re not willing to take on, pesticides can also be applied to help reduce the likelihood of ladybugs making it inside.
While sealing everything up is a more permanent solution, it can be difficult to find every single crack and it can be difficult getting to many of the cracks to seal them up.
For ladybugs, they don’t really cause too many issues in your home and are super beneficial to have around outside. Unless you have them in droves, I’d personally leave them be. You can try to use some of the natural scents that ladybugs hate in order to help stop them from entering in the first place.
That’s All We’ve Got!
Since ladybugs run out of food sources in winter, and can only withstand cold temperatures without shelter for so long, ladybug species that live longer than a year will take shelter and go into diapause when winter temperatures set in.
Ladybugs will seek out shelter in any area that is protected from predators and the winter elements which includes both natural and manmade shelters.
Don’t forget, ladybugs really aren’t bad insects to have around. While you may not want a house full of ladybugs, they do eat other insect pests which can harm your plants from spring to fall.
Coombs, A.B., Bowman, J. and Garroway, C.J., 2010. Thermal properties of tree cavities during winter in a northern hardwood forest. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 74(8), pp.1875-1881.
Marchand, P.J., 2014. Life in the cold: an introduction to winter ecology. UPNE.
Pervez, A. and Omkar, 2006. Ecology and biological control application of multicoloured Asian ladybird, Harmonia axyridi s: A review. Biocontrol science and technology, 16(2), pp.111-128.