CAN LADY BEETLES BITE?
By Chris Williams on March 10, 2017.
My granddaughter was visiting and was bitten by a lady beetle that she picked up. This was inside my house where I often have several beetles wandering around at any one time. I didn’t know they could bite, I thought they were the nice bugs. Are the bites serious? F. S., Nashua, NH
Yes, lady beetles can bite, but it’s really more of a little nip. And, no the bites are not serious, they shouldn’t even break the skin, and lady beetles do not spread any diseases to people. They don’t mean to bite, they just do it in defense if they feel threatened. Being picked up by a small giant might feel threatening if you are a lady beetle! And, they won’t always nip you if you pick one up…but it can happen.
ASIAN LADY BEETLES IN OUR HOMES
When I was growing up, we just had the regular ol’ “ladybugs” that stayed outside and never caused any problems. But now we are dealing with a different type of lady beetle, the multicolored Asian lady beetle. These beetles were introduced into the U.S. as beneficial predators to feed on aphids and other crop pests. They did that, but they also became a new household nuisance pest as they move indoors in the fall looking for places to spend the winter.
Asian lady beetles are shaped like our native lady beetles but they are more variable in color and number of black spots. Most of them are orange instead of the traditional red and they have an M-shaped marking on their backs behind the head. Most homes will play winter host to only a few lady beetles (that they see!), but light-colored structures and those surrounded by trees or forest might be invaded by larger numbers of overwintering beetles.
LOOK OUT FOR THE SPRING EXODUS
We are approaching the time of year (early spring) when these beetles “wake up” from their winter naps, emerge from hiding places, and stumble around inside homes looking for a way back outside. Many of them will find their way out, unseen, the same way they got in, usually through a small gap around the roofline.
By the way, there’s another good reason not to pick up or squash lady beetles: besides a bite, they have another defense, they release a smelly orange fluid that can stain fabrics from joints on their legs. And, some sensitive people can have an allergic or asthmatic reaction when exposed to large numbers of the beetles.
The multicolored Asian lady beetle, it seems, is no lady! See When Did Ladybugs Get Attitude!