Just yesterday, two notable things happened during my day:
First, I saw a red ladybug land on my toddler. She was having a small fit, so I tried to distract her by telling her that there was a ladybug resting on her bare arm. As I neared her, though, she yelled "hurt-hurt!," the ladybug flew away, and she latched her small hand protectively around the area where the "hurt" had been. As far as I knew, ladybugs didn’t bite, so I was surprised by her reaction.
Second, I was walking on the cool grass of our lawn and a ladybug landed near the strap of my tank top. As I went to slowly scoop it up with my hand to show my children, I felt a prick of pain where it had been…and then it was gone. After the second incident, I really began to wonder, "Do Ladybugs Bite?"
I assumed there were others "getting bitten" and asking themselves the same question—if there are ladybugs that do indeed bite. I then thought that perhaps it was the Asian ladybug that was doing this nibbling, though the insect looked exactly like a native ladybug, with its deep red color and black dots…
What Is a Ladybug?
Ladybugs—or ladybirds, as they’re commonly referred to in Great Britain—are of the coccinellidae family. Coccinellidae is a widespread family of small beetles, with more than 6,000 species, ranging from 0.8 mm (three quarters and two pennies stacked) in size to 18 mm (eight quarters and four times stacked, which is about ¾ of an inch). They are usually a striking yellow, orange, or red color, with small black spots on their wing covers, dwarf-like black legs, small heads, and short antennae. Depending on the species, they can have spots, stripes, or no markings at all.
Do Ladybugs Bite?
Native ladybugs can’t really bite you, as they don’t have teeth, but they sure can scratch you, which feels like a mild "nip." They possess a mandible (or a movable lower jaw) that’s meant for soft-bodied insects and leaves after all. This mandible does a mighty good job of gripping, tearing, and biting multiple aphids apart every day though. Thankfully, their mandibles aren’t strong enough to break tough human skin or cause bleeding.
Native ladybugs can definitely pinch, though, using their back legs to momentarily latch onto your skin. This is one of their natural defense mechanisms against prey and ladybug-enemies.
Asian ladybugs have the same structural anatomy as native ladybugs, but are a more aggressive, fierce creature and will take additional measures for survival. When liquid nourishment is in short supply, their need outweighs all. They can be harmful and will bite humans to satiate themselves. This, mind you, is in extreme cases of ruinous droughts or oppressive, long-standing heat waves.
What Does a Ladybug’s Bite Look Like?
A ladybug’s bite looks like a small and raised red bump. This red spot is your body reacting to the plant or fungus residue in the ladybug’s mouth.
I think that both my toddler and I must have been pinched, rather than bitten, by a ladybug, as neither of us had red marks on our arms thereafter.
Does a Ladybug’s Bite Hurt?
I suppose that’s like asking someone if it was painful to get their first tattoo. Some folks, including myself, would say a definite no. Other folks would give a decisive yes.
A small bite or nip by a ladybug can be painful and hurt for several days, but it’s not lethal or overly harmful. It can help to cleanse the area with soap and water to wash out any contaminants.
A pinch, from my personal experience and that of my daughter’s, is a very temporary "ouch, who did that?" thought and then it’s gone. It’s kind of like getting flicked really hard by someone’s finger.
Could I Be Allergic to Ladybugs?
Yes. Though most folks are not allergic to ladybugs and ladybugs are not considered toxic, there is a very small probability that you could be. Ladybugs release hemolymph, or blood, from their legs as a response to stress. This yellowish-orange foul-smelling liquid, if accidentally rubbed into your eyes, can cause conjunctivitis. An allergic reaction could also occur if this fluid is somehow ingested or comes into contact with the skin, particularly an open wound.
Final Word on Ladybugs
Ladybugs are very beneficial insects, are awed by children, and, both historically and cross-culturally, are considered to be talismans of good luck. If you find your home being invaded by the Halloween lady beetle or the pumpkin ladybird beetle (also known as Asian lady beetles) this fall, they’re wanting to overwinter in your home. Turn to Dr. Killigan’s Six Feet Under to immediately rid yourself of these intruders. You may also vacuum them up and release them back into the wild. A third option is to use Dr. Killigan’s Insect Buster and disperse diatomaceous earth (which must be purchased separately) across their entry points. Either way, our non-toxic pest control solutions are always here for you.
On another note, have you ever been nippled on or pinched by a ladybug? We’d enjoy hearing about your experience in the comment section below.