You know what ladybugs look like, and you’re probably already somewhat familiar with the infamous Asian lady beetle. The pest seems to disguise itself as a harmless ladybug in order to infiltrate our gardens and homes. Asian lady beetles are like the dastardly spies of the insect world, especially in fall and spring. What you may not know, however, is that the disguise isn’t perfect.
It’s not always easy, but distinguishing between Asian lady beetles and ladybugs is always possible. By figuring out which bug is which, you’ll be able to drive out the bad and leave the good be. Here’s how to tell if the bug you’re looking at is an imposter, and what to do about it.
Why the difference matters
Although Ladybugs and Asian lady beetles look similar and belong to the same insect family, they don’t behave similarly. Ladybugs are considered highly beneficial, harmless insects. They don’t bite, they consume several harmful garden pests such as aphids, and they never congregate in large numbers. Most importantly, when it gets cold out they seek shelter outdoors. Asian lady beetles hunt garden pests, too, but that’s where the similarities end.
Asian lady beetles are considered a true pest. Unlike ladybugs, Asian lady beetles will gather in large groups, especially around warm, reflective surfaces like windows. Asian lady beetles “bite” by scraping the skin they land on, and leave a yellow, foul-smelling liquid on surfaces where they gather. Worst of all, Asian lady beetles will attempt to enter your home when they look for overwintering shelters. Basically, think of Asian lady beetles as ladybugs’ evil twins. Telling them apart is important because even if you’re cool with ladybugs, you don’t want Asian lady beetles hanging around.
How you can tell them apart
Ladybugs and Asian lady beetles definitely look similar. If you look closely, however, you’ll be able to spot a few key differences. First of all, Asian lady beetles are slightly larger than Ladybugs. While all ladybugs are bright red with black spots, Asian lady beetles’ coloration can vary from red to orange. Lady beetles may or may not have black spots on their cerci (wing covers). Lady bugs have a round, oval shape, while Asian lady beetles tend to be a little longer.
The easiest way to tell Asian lady beetles apart from ladybugs at a glance is to look for the white “M” (see above). Asian lady beetles have a distinctive, highly-visible “M-shaped” black marking on their otherwise-white heads. This marking varies in size, thickness, and overall shape, but it’s always there. Ladybugs’ heads are mostly black with small white markings. Ladybug’s white markings are confined to the sides of the head and may resemble “cheeks.” In general, ladybugs’ heads or “snouts” also appear shorter and less pointed than Asian lady beetles’.
First and foremost, ladybugs don’t sneak into your home the way Asian lady beetles do. While ladybugs overwinter in sheltered sites outdoors, Asian lady beetles often wind up entering homes. If you notice the bugs congregating in or around your home in fall or winter, they’re probably Asian lady beetles. Look for them around siding, roof shingles, attics, door and window frames, and other dark, undisturbed areas. Asian lady beetles may also enter homes and buildings in spring.
The other obvious way to identify an Asian lady beetle is to look for their “reflex bleeding.” When Asian lady beetles feel threatened, they may excrete a foul-smelling, yellow liquid from their leg joints. This excretion is called “reflex bleeding,” and it can also happen when the beetles are crushed. The yellow excretion isn’t dangerous, but it can stain walls and fabrics or trigger minor allergic reactions. These excretions are particularly noticeable when Asian lady beetles congregate around warm surfaces or access points.
What You Can Do About Asian Lady Beetles
Asian lady beetles are naturally attracted to bright colors like whites, greys, and yellows. They also tend to congregate in places that get lots of sun exposure. Therefore, you should look for your Asian lady beetles on sun-exposed, brightly-colored surfaces. When Asian lady beetles enter homes, it’s usually by accident. They congregate on window frames or wall spaces and end up wandering in through cracks. If you can find and seal these cracks, you can keep the beetles out.
Once inside, Asian lady beetles tend to congregate in dark, secluded places to keep warm. You might find them in attics, closets, crawl spaces, or storage areas. They’re particularly prone to hiding behind frames and siding. Don’t crush any beetles you find. Instead, vacuum them up and dispose of the bag when you’re finished. You should also scrub down the surfaces Asian lady beetles congregate on with soapy water.
Asian lady beetles aren’t a dangerous pest, but they are a nuisance. You shouldn’t have to put up with these opportunistic stinkers just because you’re afraid to bother ladybugs. By learning how to tell Asian lady beetles and ladybugs apart, you won’t have to.
Need some help clearing out an Asian lady beetle infestation? Want to make sure you don’t get one in the first place? Just give Plunkett’s Pest Control a call right away. We’ll send those imposters packing, every time.BACK TO BLOG