Have you ever been bitten by a ladybug?
Do ladybugs bite? The simple answer is no. Domestic ladybugs, or lady beetles, do not bite. But, multicolored Asian lady beetles, which closely resemble and are in the same species as our beloved domestic ladybug, do. So, how did the Asian Lady Beetle get here, what are its benefits, how do you distinguish it from the domestic lady beetle, and why does it bite?
The Asian lady beetle is native to northeast Asia. In 1916, the U.S. Department of Agriculture introduced the Asian lady beetle to California to control aphids on pecan trees. Today, due to accidental transport, deliberate release, or natural migration, the Asian lady beetle can now be found throughout the United States.
The Asian lady beetle is very effective is controlling soft-bodied pests found in agricultural and garden settings. Soybean crops, specifically, benefit greatly from their existence. Mature Asian lady beetles and their larvae can each consume hundreds of sap-sucking aphids daily, proving their worth as a natural predator.
In contrast, the Asian lady beetle is also commonly considered a nuisance, especially when they invade our homes, stain our clothes and yes, even bite us. To the untrained eye, the Asian lady beetle and the domestic ladybug appear identical. Yet, the Asian lady beetle differs in appearance from the domestic ladybug in one important way. Viewing from above, on the section of the beetle that separates its tiny head from its winged area, there is a distinguishing marking which looks like the letter “M.” Domestic ladybugs do not have this characteristic.
Okay, so it’s not a ladybug and in fact an Asian lady beetle. Why do they bite?
When Asian lady beetles land on your skin to explore for moisture or food, you may experience what feels like a bite. Most Asian lady beetles do not bite. However, they do have spurs on the back of their legs that can cause a poking, pricking sensation as they scout for a meal. There is no known toxin or disease associated with this activity, but you may encounter some swelling or minor pain if you are particularly sensitive.
So next time you are bitten, don’t blame the innocent ladybug. It’s her evil twin, the Asian lady beetle.