Sunday, April 14, 2013

Optimally Managing Ladybugs

My daughter loves ladybugs.  However, when it comes to cleverness, many have noted how bees and ants (which seem to have a special place in Indian hearts :) "solve" traveling salesman and shortest path instances that matter to them (see this interesting link as well). In contrast, a ladybug's decision analytics appears to be somewhat shaky. They don't seem to have the kind of auto-GPS of bees and ants (at least in the context of this post), and seem to get confused and stray from their optimal path.

(pic source)

Recently, a number of LBs invaded my residence, and I spent a lot of time trying to shoo them away and determine how they got inside in the first place so that I could block their entry. Then, I came across this website. Apparently, ladybugs prefer humidity and warmth and try to enter homes as winter begins. OK. However, a good number also enter the house come spring time, which was puzzling. It seems some of the LBs goof up. Ladybugs roosting under windows outside the house, with a certain probability, enter the house instead of enjoying spring time outside. Once inside, they suffer from dehydration and die (unless they figure out the route to the bathroom or kitchen). If we try to force them out, they get stressed and shed 'yellow blood' that can stain walls. The optimal ladybug solution for this time of the year is to simply open the windows, so the ones who came inside by mistake can leave. It's a win-win for both parties, and it actually worked. On the other hand, during winter, we have to try and provide a cozy, alternative home in backyard and insulate the house well to keep them out.

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