No, it’s not just a question of semantics – these are two insects who look remarkably similar. But while one is always a happy site to see, the other couldn’t be more unwelcome.
Coccinellidae have long been rumored to bring good luck or grant wishes to anyone they land on. They’re one of the few insects people don’t mind having walk around on their arm or even in their hair. In the garden, they help out by eating aphids and scale bugs that would otherwise damage our plants or flowers. And when things get colder, they seek out logs or small rocks to hibernate under.
Their name supposedly comes from medieval times. Farmers were struggling with their crops dying in the Middle Ages and didn’t know what to do. Catholicism was the dominant religion across Europe, so the farmers started praying to the Virgin Mary, and these little red bugs started showing up, saving the crops.
Whether it was Jesus’ mom, or even the Christ himself who sent the insects, we don’t know. But in Germany, they called the newly discovered insects Marienkafer or Mary’s Beetles. Eventually, there was even a story about the red color – Mary’s cloak – and the spots represented her seven sorrows.
And while some ladybugs vary in shades of red, the black spotted ladybug is the most common one in the United States.
Harmonia axyridis or Asian multicolored Lady Beetles are an invasive species. They tend to be a bit yellower than what we think of as ladybugs, but as the name suggests, they vary in shade as well. They eat aphids, but they’ll also infest fruit like grapes, apples and raspberries, and they slowly push the ladybugs out of an area. They cluster together and will try to get into your house if they can, especially in the winter.
You don’t want these insects landing on you. Asian lady beetles scratch and scrape the skin they land on – human or pet. And while ladybugs rely on their bright colors to scare away predators, Asian lady beetles secrete a yellow, foul-smelling liquid.
Ironically, ladybugs might not have as great numbers as they do if it weren’t for the Asian lady beetles. One bite of the foul smelling beetle and birds learn to stay away – likely protecting the similarly colored ladybugs as well.
Telling Them Apart
Asian lady beetles are somewhat larger than ladybugs. Ladybugs tend to be evenly round, while Asian lady beetles can be a more stretched, oval-like shape. Some Asian lady beetles don’t have black spots on their wings, and they often have more spots.
The best way to tell if what you’re seeing is a ladybug or a lady beetle is to look at the head. The ones we want around have smaller white spots, like cheeks, and more black area. The invasive ones have bigger white spots and the black between them forms the letter M.
Much like the cockroaches we discussed last week, you don’t want to crush Asian lady beetles, as they “bleed” a noxious smelling natural staining chemical. If you see them, they’ll often be congregating together – grab your HEPA-filter vacuum and suck ‘em up. “Whatcha do after… is between you and a priest.”
In all seriousness, if you dump them outside, you’ll want to do so in a sealed bag or far away from your home. Or you can call us! Our most popular pest solution is our Go Green Perimeter Plus. That solution starts with us sealing up the access points where these insects might get in, then applying a natural treatment that eliminates ants, roaches, silverfish and other common creepy crawlies.
It’s safe for your family, your pets and the environment and it’s effective and affordably priced. For more detailed information, or to schedule your first appointment with one of our highly-trained technicians, just give us a call!
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