Lady Bug Numbers Soar to Winemakers' Dismay

Posted: Updated: Nov 04, 2017 10:38 PM
Central Virginia has seen an increase in lady bugs recently Central Virginia has seen an increase in lady bugs recently
Glass House Winery Glass House Winery
Lady bug Lady bug
The winemakers don't want the insects in the wine The winemakers don't want the insects in the wine

The central Virginia area hasn't just had rain storms recently - but also a flooding of lady bugs.

Many viewers have called in saying the bugs are taking over the exterior of their homes.

These small insects are also heading to the wineries, which is bad for wine processing.

Many people don't want bugs in their wine for obvious reasons, but they may not know that if a lady bug were to get into a wine batch it will actually ruin the taste.

On Friday, November 3, Glass House Winery couldn't process its remaining tins of fruit because of this lady bug epidemic - causing those cases to stay off the shelves for now.

“We don't want any bugs in our wine, but we really don't want something that's gonna affect the flavor,” says Jeff Sanders, owner of Glass House Winery.

The unexpected lady bugs visitors were found in unexpected quantities.

“There's tons of them,” says MJ Wingate, general manager at Glass House Winery. “They're all over the walls. They're swarming basically outside on the crush pad where we do our work.”

But the insect, typically known for symbolizing good luck, didn't bring much good fortune to winery owners.

“I'm sitting there going 'there's absolutely no way I can keep these completely out of the wine today,’” says Wingate.

“They're on the walls and they're flying around, and when you process this fruit you dump it out into our press and so it's exposed to the air,” says Sanders. “And there were so many of them that it was reasonably clear some of them would have just landed in the bin."

The lady bugs took over the walls, ceilings, and windows of Glass House Winery in Free Union, halting the processing of more than 300 cases of wine.

“We were presented with this research that show that lady bugs, if just a few get into your wine, the negative flavor of lady bugs will affect the wine,” says Sanders. “It doesn't take much.”

The lady bugs weren't just touring the wineries, they were also raiding people's homes and businesses.

David Gaines of the Virginia Department of Health says the type of ladybug we're seeing is a non-native species with few natural predators. He says it was likely a good summer for breeding and since the conditions were just right, they all came at once.

This is the time of the year that they seek shelter for the winter, which is why they're fleeing to cracks and crevices.

And like stink bugs, they can't be exterminated.

“For now, we'll just wait until they go away,” says Sanders.

As for the wine, it will just have to sit a bit longer.

“These wines will just have a couple more extra days of extended maceration at this point, thanks to the lady bugs,” says Wingate.

As long as the lady bugs don't come back, Glass House Winery will return to processing the remaining bins of fruit they have left for the year.