Do You Know the Difference Between…
Ladybugs vs. Ladybeetles
When you come across a small, round bug with a black and white face, and a hard, shiny, reddish body with black spots, you might assume it is a ladybug. More often than not, though, these are actually Asian ladybeetles, not ladybugs. Ladybugs, known more correctly as ladybird beetles, and Asian ladybeetles are actually a member of the same species of insect, the coccinellid beetles. These coccinellid beetles are both small, reddish beetles with a domed body and they both feed on small crop pests such as aphids. While they may look similar, and have similar diets, these two insects are actually quite different.
Without factoring in their behavior, these two beetles might appear to be almost identical. However, there are minute details that can help you tell the difference just based on sight. Asian ladybeetles and ladybugs both have black heads with white accents, but on ladybugs these white accents appear on their cheeks, while the Asian ladybeetles white and black combination creates an “M” shape. Ladybugs are red with black spots, but Asian ladybeetles can range in color from red to orange to almost brown. These off-colored beetles all have exactly 19 spots, but the spots can be faded or it may appear that they have no spots at all.
Ladybugs are a non-detrimental pest, as they do not feed on anything other than aphids and small crop pests. Additionally, they overwinter outdoors, and do not gather in large numbers. They do not bite, and they do not leave behind secretions when threatened. Unlike ladybugs, Asian ladybeetles do have many detrimental attributes, though. Asian ladybeetles were actually introduced to North America from, you guessed it, Asia. They were originally imported to help the native ladybug, and other insects, in control of aphids. However, with no natural predators, these beetles have quickly taken over and become a common and incredibly annoying pest for many homeowners.
Asian ladybeetles are often seen en masse in fall when they prepare for overwintering, and again in spring when they reemerge. Like boxelder bugs, these beetles prefer the southwest side of homes, in areas where there is lots of sunlight at the end of the day. In these large groups, they can be quite the eyesore. Additionally, for ladybeetles, your home is the best place to overwinter. This again can cause many homeowners problems as these beetles appear randomly inside your home throughout the winter, especially on warmer days. Their tendencies to congregate in large groups and sneak into your home can also be problematic as they leave behind foul-smelling secretions when handled or disturbed. Not only do these secretions smell bad, they can also cause stains, and as such these beetles can cause discoloration and damage to homes and property. Large groups of these insects can also be problematic if there are children present, as these beetles can and will bite if mishandled. While these bites do not cause much pain, or have any health risks, it is still far from ideal.
While ladybugs and Asian ladybeetles both have beneficial attributes, the negatives far outweigh the positives when it comes to the Asian-imported beetles, and these beetles have become far more common than their native, and harmless, cousins. The only real solution for a Asian ladybeetle problem is to call a pest control professional.