At first glance, it looks like a cute, innocent bug, the kind that adorns little girls’ sundresses and illustrations in children’s picture books.
But underneath its charming exterior lies an evil beast, a beast that bites, stinks up your drinking water, and take over your house every fall and winter.
I’m talking about the Asian lady beetle.
In the video above, I ask my son if this is the worst swarming of lady beetles we’ve seen in the three falls we have passed on our rural property. Indeed, a day later a neighbor who’s lived on the mountain a year or two longer than we have confirmed my belief. As a matter of fact, on that day this neighbor was getting out of Dodge to escape The Invasion Of The Lady beetles.
“Will you feed my cat for me?”
“Oh, sure, we’ll be happy to subject ourselves to lady beetle attacks as we go up to your place to feed your cat.”
Okay, so that’s not exactly how we responded. The good news about the annual lady beetle invasion is that they are calm and hidden until mid-morning, or until the sun comes out if the day starts out mostly cloudy. So J went up in the morning to feed his cat.
But unless you live in a place where the state department of wildlife idiotically dumped ten million Asian lady beetles in an attempt to kill off a pest, you probably don’t understand why I am so disparaging about them. Aren’t they just a kind of ladybug?
Ladybugs are ladylike
Depending on which website you land on, Asian lady beetles are either related to ladybugs, but in a third-cousin-twice-removed sort of way, or they are a type of ladybug. For clarification, in this article I’m going to call the beetle that is native to the U.S. “ladybug”, and the other “Asian lady beetle. The easiest way to tell the difference is that ladybugs have black heads. Compare that to the following photo of a lady beetle:
I’m not an entomologist any more than I can bend over backward and touch my head to my heels. But one obvious physical difference between the two insects is that the Asian lady beetle has white on and behind its head. Ladybugs don’t. Really, when I’m in the garden in the summer that’s the only way I know which one I’m looking at.
Ladybug behavior is more ladylike in that they behave calmly at all times. Have you ever been hit on the arm by a flying ladybug? No, you haven’t.
I rest my case.
They also don’t swarm together and try to get into your house on warm and sunny fall and winter days. Instead, they go wherever proper beetles go when summer comes to an end. I guess somewhere in the ground or under mulch. Or die. In other words, they leave people alone.
Ladybugs don’t bite. As a general rule. Of course, one of them is bound to have a P.M.S. issue once in a while and get grouchy, like the classic children’s book that features a ladybug.
But most of them act like ladies and do no harm to anything but aphids.
Finally, ladybugs, like proper ladies, do not make a stink.
Beware of Asian lady beetles!
While Asian lady beetles provide the same benefits in your garden during the summer as do ladybugs, once the weather turns cold, watch out! On cold and/or cloudy fall and winter days, they hide in tree trunks and such. But when the sun comes out and the weather warms above forty degrees, they come out of hiding and flock to the nearest light-colored space they can find.
Therefore…do not wear anything with any amount of white on lady beetle swarm days!
If they fly by you and hit you, they will often assume it’s your fault and bite you. On days when the temperatures soar above seventy degrees (Fahrenheit), they might land on you and bite you just because the heat is making them mad. The bites don’t leave a red mark, and I’ve never heard of anyone having an allergic reaction to Asian lady beetle bites. But it’s annoying prick just the same.
Asian lady beetles actively search for cracks and crevices so that they can sneak into your home. The nice thing about our earth-sheltered house is that the windows are only on the south side. Since lady beetles are attracted to light, that’s where they hang out during the day. Also, we have a domed ceiling that is twelve feet high in the middle, so they don’t bother us too much inside the house.
Finally, Asian lady beetles produce a repulsive odor when they’re scared or annoyed. If they land in a glass of water, they’ll let out that stinky chemical and you have to dump the water, rinse your glass, and refill it. If you pick one up, they’ll leave the odor on your finger. And so on.
So then, the question is…
Are you more like a ladybug or an Asian lady beetle?
It’s a rhetorical question. And I think I’m going to plead the Fifth on this one. 😉