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Ladybugs are part of a group of 6,000 beetles that share similar colors and markings. Known for their crimson or yellow-orange color and black spots, ladybugs (also called “ladybird beetles” and “lady beetles”) are beneficial for gardens and are even thought to represent good luck in some cultures.
Like most insects, ladybugs are active in the warmer months and hibernate over winter. Ladybugs will find shelter during the winter under tree bark, in tight crevices, and potentially in a home, which is when they can become a nuisance. The species that typically enters a home in large numbers is known as the Asian lady beetle, a more aggressive bug compared to the native ladybug that it resembles.
While not hard to get rid of, Asian lady beetles can multiply quickly and secrete a foul-smelling yellow liquid when they feel threatened or are squashed. Knowing how to identify this species of ladybug while they are outside the home can help you prevent them from invading your home when temperatures cool.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN LADYBUGS AND ASIAN LADY BEETLES?
Because they come from the same group of insects, native ladybugs and Asian lady beetles look very similar. Adult native ladybugs have a round or oval shape and are brightly colored, usually ranging from red to pink and even yellow. The amount of black spots on their wings can vary.
Asian lady beetles’ color ranges from tan to orange and even red. The pattern of the black spots on these bugs are highly variable. A defining trait of the Asian lady beetle is a black “M” shaped marking behind its head.
These beetles also differ in their temperament. The Asian lady beetle may bite when it feels threatened, which may come as a surprise to someone who thinks they are handling the friendlier native ladybug. While not a significant bite (more like a pinch), in some cases it can cause an allergic reaction. Other reactions include pink eye, respiratory ailments, or hay fever.
Another surprise Asian lady beetles have tucked away is a foul-smelling yellow fluid that they will secrete from their legs when they feel threatened. Beside the odor, the liquid can also stain the surfaces it lands on.
The use of products or other extreme measures is not recommended to try to control the Asian lady beetle population around your home or in your garden. Asian lady beetles are an invasive ladybug species that was introduced to North America in 1919 to control the aphid population. Both the native ladybug and Asian lady beetle eat common garden pests, so eliminating them could lead to a harmful infestation in your garden. Actions can be taken to encourage native species to remain in your garden while forcing Asian lady beetles out.
Planting pollen-rich flowers (yellow and white varieties are best) is a great way to encourage native ladybugs to make a home in your garden. If enough “good” ladybugs are taking up an area, the Asian lady beetle will leave. This is a great natural pest control method.
To keep both types of ladybugs out of your house, seal all cracks and open crevices where they could enter. Common entry points are around doors, window screens, and vents.
If any Asian lady beetles do find their way inside, avoid swatting or crushing them. Capture bugs by vacuuming them up or capturing them on a sticky tape. Place captured bugs in the freezer for at least three hours. After that, submerge them in soapy water.
If you find a swarm of Asian lady beetles outside, you can use soapy water to encourage them to move along. Make sure it is truly the Asian lady beetle before taking this step. Scrub the areas on your house where the swarm congregates. The soap smell will overpower the pheromones that draw additional bugs in. If you must, take individual bugs and drop them in the soapy water.
Lastly, gardeners should avoid purchasing ladybugs from commercial vendors. Not only could the distributor be harvesting bugs from the wild, but they could actually be selling the Asian lady beetle variety, which the gardener would then release into their garden.
While native ladybugs can be valuable, many other insects are an unwelcome presence in backyards throughout the US. If you’re struggling with bugs and want to reclaim your home, give us a call to get relief. Our pet- and family-friendly treatments will help you regain your peace of mind and enjoy the outdoors again.