Asian Lady Beetle vs. Ladybug

By Julie Miller
Asian Lady Beetle vs. Ladybug

To be honest, until I began researching for this article, I didn’t realize that there was more than one type of ladybug, but instead made the naive assumption that ladybugs came in various colors. Though when I pondered this assumption, it dawned on me that, at least in Michigan, I never saw orange, brown, or yellow ladybugs as a child. They were always red.

Come to find out, the Asian ladybug, also known as the Asian lady beetle, was first imported into the United States in 1916, though it died off. It was reintroduced to California in 1964 and 1965, but again failed to thrive. Apparently, it really "took" after a 1988 release in Louisiana, where the beetle then subsequently traveled to nearly all corners of North America. Its popularity first grew in the Northwestern U.S., followed by the Northeastern, and then to Michigan and other parts of the Midwest.

What Is the Asian Lady Beetle?

The name ladybug is quite misleading, since these insects are actually beetles. Perhaps you should consider using the term "ladybird beetle" or "lady beetle" the next time this most beloved and respected of insects comes up in conversation? If so, and while you’re at it, let’s make sure that you’re using the word mischievous correctly—pronounced MIS-chuh-vus (not mis-CHEE-vee-us). This ladybird beetle, in addition to several others, also goes by these names: Asian ladybug, Japanese lady beetle, multicolored Asian lady beetle, and the Halloween lady beetle, as the adults begin moving indoors around October. The term ladybug is slang.

Is a Ladybug Actually a Bug?

Although I, too, am using the slang word in this writing, it’s important to note that ladybugs are not actually bugs. "True bugs," like aphids, butterflies, and bedbugs, have a mouth shaped like a needle (a proboscis), which looks like a long beak and operates like a drinking straw, from which they suck juices. The ladybug does not have a proboscis. Rather, it has razor sharp mouthparts (not teeth) that allows it to chew and, if it's an Asian lady beetle, bite you or me.

Difference between the Asian Lady Beetle & the Native Ladybug?

Upon first glance, the Asian ladybug (or Asian beetle) and the native ladybug look alike. You could easily assume that these foreign beetles are in fact native ladybugs. Their one key and very noticeable difference is that Asian ladybugs have distinct markings on their pronotum. This difference, along with a multitude of others, are listed for your reference. 

Asian Ladybugs

Asian Lady Beetle
  • Pronotum: Distinct white M (or W) on their pronotum, which is the area between the head and the body
  • Color: Various colors - orange, yellow, brown, black, yellow, and white
  • Spots: 2-19
  • Size: 7-15 mm, or approximately ¼ to ½ inch long 
  • Temperament: Aggressive. They bite by scraping the skin they land on and leave a foul-smelling secretion on surfaces where they gather
  • Harmful to pets: Possibly. If your furball eats a few dozen, he can become lethargic, get ulcers, start foaming at the mouth, and experience vomiting and diarrhea
  • OK to squash: No. When threatened or crushed, they tend to leave a foul-smelling yellow secretion from their leg joints that stains upholstery and walls
  • Congregate: Yes. They can amass in huge numbers
  • Habitat: Will invade homes to seek shelter during the winter 

Native Ladybugs

Native Ladybug
  • Pronotum: Shiny and black with two tiny white circles that look like cheeks
  • Color: Red, typically bright, but sometimes pale 
  • Spots: 9, 4 on each wing and 1 that is split in the middle 
  • Size: 3 to 6 mm, which is just short of ¼ inch
  • Temperament: Mild. They do not bite
  • Harmful to pets: No
  • OK to squash: Yes. But, consider their many benefits first
  • Congregate: No. Often found solitary
  • Habitat: Seek shelter outdoors

It’s important to emphasize that Asian lady beetles will bite, but that typically, their bite only leaves a mostly harmless red mark on your skin, as their mandibles do not hold enough power to cause lasting damage. Second, they can be harmful and, if enough are eaten, even poisonous to your cat or dog, sending you both to the vet. (Someone has to drive your beloved furball.) Third, Asian lady beetles, if they find entrance into your home, may take refuge in your siding, wall crevices, light sockets, and foundational spaces.

How Do I Get Rid of the Asian Lady Beetle?

If you find that you have a ladybug infestation, there are several ways in which you can get rid of Asian lady beetles and even prevent their return.

Vacuum Up

If your invasion is small, a few lady beetles rather than a few dozen, suck these intruders up with a vacuum hose. Don’t crush them. You can then release them into the wild, far far away from your home.

Use Dr. Killigan’s Six Feet Under

Generally disperse our non-toxic, child and pet-safe kill-on-contact insect spray over all of the surfaces where you see these beetles resting or crawling. Lady Beetles, as they go to and fro, leave behind pheromone trails to attract other lady beetles. It’s important that you rid your home of these trails.

Disperse Diatomaceous Earth

Using Dr. Killigan’s Insect Buster, a precise distribution method for applying DE, puff this powder around the windows and doors of your home, along with any cracks or crevices where Asian lady beetles might gain entry.

Plant Chrysanthemums

Ladybugs (our lady beetles), regardless of whether they’re native or Asian, do not like mums. Plant or pot these brilliantly colored flowers around your windows and the entrance to your home to keep those insects away.

Final Word on Asian Lady Beetle vs. Ladybug

Is there anything else that you’d like to learn about the Asian lady beetle? Are you curious as to why they were brought into the United States in the first place and if that operation were successful? Write your thoughts in the comments section. I look forward to hearing from you.

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