Bill Bell doesn't know where they are coming from, but the Douglas County Courthouse seemingly has become infested with a type of ladybug called the multicolored Asian lady beetle.
"We can't find where those suckers are getting in," said Bell, the county's maintenance director.
The problem was so bad that County Administrator Craig Weinaug's office last week looked like a scene from an Alfred Hitchcock movie, Bell said.
K-State Research and Extension agent Bruce Chladny said he didn't know whether there were more of the lady beetles in the area, but said this was the first year he had received calls about them invading homes.
"I'm guessing the population is increasing to the point of them being a nuisance," Chladny said.
The federal government began importing the insect as early as 1916 to help control insect pests in trees. They also arrived accidentally via ships.
Unlike the ground-based native ladybugs, multicolored Asian lady beetles reside in trees, where they feed on insects such as aphids. In cold weather, they try to find shelter in high and warm locations. Those spots are limited in the flat plains of Kansas, which is why people are seeing them crawling into their homes and office buildings.
"Once they find a way into a place, they release a pheromone that all the other ones can detect and find the same way in," Chladny said.
The best way to keep the lady beetles out is to seal off entry points in late summer and early fall, he said.
But once they are in, there isn't much that can be done. Mark Lillis, manager of Schendel Pest Services' Lawrence branch, said he would not recommend fumigation to get rid of the lady beetles, because they would not damage a home.
Killing the lady beetles would produce corpses and those could attract other types of beetles that could damage a home, Lillis said.
People also should be careful if they are trying to smash a multicolored Asian lady beetle. Their blood has a bad odor and can cause stains. The lady beetles also have been known to nip people.
"They're not looking for a blood meal," Chladny said. "They're just feeling uncertain or are looking for something to drink."