Thursday, May 29, 2008

Do Ladybugs Bite?

From GardensAlive.com

Question:
Would you please be so kind as to settle an argument between my Mother and I? Do Ladybugs (the garden variety ladybug we all know and love) bite? My mother insists that she received a nasty bite from a ladybug. I say "hogwash", there's no way these sweet little girlies would ever bite - she must have had a run in with some other mean old bug in a ladybug costume.

Answer:
Sorry, Feona—looks like the lobster wins this time. (And NEVER bet against your mother—that’s as bad as a husband thinking he can ‘win’ an argument with his wife!) Steve is correct about the ladies’ ability—and perhaps propensity—to nibble away, although he’s several continents off on his geography. The ladybugs invading homes almost everywhere in the country this time of year are from Asia, not South America.

They were released years ago to combat crop pests, but promptly disappeared. Then they showed up again years later—gaining notice when they began invading our homes to hibernate over winter, as they used to do in caves back home. As with the ones Steve’s parents are battling, their markings can be all over the place compared to those of the “Convergent” ladies we’re so familiar with. That’s why this strain are called “multicolored Asian ladybugs.”

And yes: I too, was at first suspicious about the biting stories. But many people have emailed to ask about it—and to report being bit! So I turned once again to one of my favorite entomological experts, former beneficial insect specialist for the Canadian government, and now private IPM Consultant Dr. Linda Gilkeson, who lives on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia.

She replies: “You bet those little critters can bite! They don't have any kind of venom or irritating saliva (like mosquitoes, black flies, etc.), but they are just big enough for us to feel it when they pinch our skin.

“I suspect the reason people are so shocked,” she continues, “isn't that they got nipped (a minor insult compared to the bites of most other insects), but that it was the famously friendly ladybug of song and legend that did the nipping. It REALLY freaks some people out. I have heard of soccer games (played by hearty guys, all) being scrubbed because so many Multicolored Asian lady beetles were getting onto the player's white shirts.....oh the horror!”

Thank you, Dr. Linda. So we can now say, with sound scientific backing, that multicolored Asian ladybugs do indeed ‘bite’. Although I would prefer we use a less aggressive term—like ‘nibble’. (Or maybe “Harmonia hickey”—a tribute to the Asian lady’s scientific name.) I’m not just semanticizing here—these aren’t really ‘bites’ in the true sense of the word. The ladybugs don’t break the skin (not even close), and many researchers feel they’re really just kind of ‘testing’ the surface (human skin) they’re on. So don’t be freakin’ out like them wussy soccer players—you may feel a little nibble, but these ain’t yellowjackets, folks.

Anyway, if you currently have the indoor Ladybird Beetle blues, here’s a link to last year’s Question of the Week detailing removal strategies. One addition to that invaluable info: Whatever do you, don’t smash, squish or squash them! They make a stain that can be difficult—often impossible—to remove.

25 comments:

  1. AnonymousJune 07, 2008

    Not only do the Asian Ladybugs bite, but a lot of people are highly allergic to them. I discovered several years ago, that they were causing me to have allergic reactions. Hordes of them move into my house in the fall and stay until spring. I have not found any way to keep them out. Needless to say, I suffer all winter, because they don't always hibernate. They come out of hiding, fly around, and collect in windows and around lights in the room. They get into everything, including landing on food on our plates, when we are eating. The darn things are a nuisance, and a health hazard for many of us. The yellow stains they leave on surfaces are very hard to remove. They have driven out our native ladybugs, which were never a problem.

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    1. I've been bitten this winter and must be allergic because I'm going to have to go to the doctor. The itching from the bites is just awful. I told one doctor about it and she said that she never heard of the ladybug biting anyone. I showed her the bites. This isn't the first time I've been bitten, but this year we just have so many of them. I have an exterminator coming today, but I'm not sure anything can be done to keep them out. I use the shop vac to get them from the windows almost every day and they just keep coming. Whoever got them started in West Virginia should be ashamed of themselves.

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  2. AnonymousMay 20, 2009

    ok, I know its been like a year since you posted the question... But I know some Ladybugs bite. Near me there is a creek, where there are swarms of Ladybugs. They were biting everyone! Including myself. It hurts!

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  3. Can ladybugs get mad cow disease?

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  4. Yes they do bite and swell up and hurt like crazy i was bite two days ago and the bite hurts and swelled up 2 by 3 inches and is very painful. And just like everyone i didnt think they bite, but i am here to tell u they DO!!!!!

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  5. This is so interesting about all the bites. I've played with ladybugs for many years i the garden and even pick them up from the road when I'm walking to get them out of the way of traffic. Have never heard of anybody being bitten, so all of this is good information to have. I wonder if it's the true ladybugs or some of the Asian species that we now have and if there's a difference in them biting or not.

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  6. I would never pick a lady bug up off the road. My house gets infested with these nasty things! They do bite, and the smell! I much rather have my plants die due to ants or whatever, than have them flying all over my house. Yuck!

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  7. AnonymousJune 03, 2012

    yes they doo bite!! i just got bitten yesterday and today i have a couple
    bumps on me!!!

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  8. AnonymousJune 26, 2012

    I was bitten today for the first time in my life and i am 58 years old and it was a nasty pinch.I do not care much for them anymore.

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  9. AnonymousJuly 22, 2012

    Glad to read all these comments after much research online. I was bitten yesterday whilst horse riding. Felt it bite before I saw it and it was a sharp pinch that made me jump. The ladybird was black with four yellow spots. This was in Cambridge UK. As a child I always used to play with ladybirds in the garden, but I wouldn't encourage anyone to do so now.

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  10. AnonymousJuly 25, 2012

    I looked up whether lady bugs bite after being bitten by one today. It was a smaller orange-red species without spots, not the Asian type.

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  11. I was bitten by an ash gray lady bug last night and it felt like fire under my skin and woke me up out of a dead sleep. I immediately broke out in hives and after 20 minutes my tongue and mouth were numb/tingley(like the feeling you get when your foot's asleep). I was bitten right behind my ear. I believe I could be allergic to the little buggers, never been bit by one before.

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  12. heck yeh they bite, was bitten first time today in 47 years, always played with them as a kid and protected them as an adult because i heard they were good and ate bad bugs. but, they are bad bugs ibn my book now. this really hurtwhen it happenened and still does. felt like a minor pinch when it first happened, then got worse over a few minutes and made a big whelp on the back of my neck. I'll kill every one I see from now on!

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    Replies
    1. I've been stung by a wasp since i came into its territory a bit too suddenly, but do not kill every wasp I now see. Matter of fact, I love giving bees "back rubbies" while they're feeding on the flowers in my garden. I've been around hundreds of bees and wasps and even taken macro pictures (camera lens 1" away pressed to my face) of yellow jackets and not had a problem. I take pictures of our paper wasps every year when they nest on our front porch.

      Consider all the ladybugs you had good experiences with ... not quite fair to judge the whole species for one bug. :-)

      Delete
  13. My Mother got bitten by them the other night and she has a red bump. I never knew lady bugs bit.

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  14. THEY MOST CERTAINLY DO BITE.I WAS BITTEN LAST NIGHT BY ONE THAT WAS ORANGE WITH BLACK SPOTS AND IT HURT AND STUNG SO BAD,IT BIT ME ON THE ARM THREE TIMES BEFORE I COULD GET IT OFF OF ME SO,I THINK IT GOT AGRESSIVE WHEN I WAS TRYING TO GET IT OFF OF ME,I GOT SO SICK TO MY STOMACH,I GOT DIZZY. AND I THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO HAVE TO GO TO THE EMENGENCY ROOM,BUT INSTEAD I TOOK TWO BENADRYL AND PUT ICE PACKS ON IT TO GET THE SWELLING DOWN. I WAS OK AFTER A COUPLE OF HOURS,SO BE CAREFUL AROUND THEM BECAUSE THEY DO BITE!

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  15. Is there any way to get rid of these nasty things? they're invading my house. I can't get rid of them! - They but my daughter twice. Poor thing. They're not nice insects. I dislike them!!!

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  16. I'm sure a Google search will give you some ideas. Remember to use natural/non-toxic solutions since anything that kills a bug will damage others in the household, especially pets and young children.

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  17. I just has a very hard pinch on my lower jaw and when I knocked it off I was amazed to see that it was a ladybug that had bit me! They do bite and hey do hurt!

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  18. I was bit last year for the first time in 50 years. But I know how beneficial they are, especially for organic gardening, which we do, so I went & got hundreds from a nest @a friend's & spread them around everywhere. I'm so excited! They're doing the work God intended :)

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    Replies
    1. I definitely agree! Read post: Don't Kill This Bug!They eat so many bad bugs. Read post: Aphids Gobbled Up and All Gone. We get aphids on some of our bushes and over the years of not using chemicals the colony has grown.

      You need to know what the larvae looks like also so you don't kill the babies since they can eat One larvae will eat about 400 medium-size aphids during its development to the pupal stage. Read: Do NOT Kill Ladybug Larvae - Know What It Looks Like.

      By not using chemicals in the yard and taking some time to learn what we have (through books or taking a "sample" to the extension agent in your county), you can have free bug control for your plants. It's really cool. We've even accomplished that with June Bugs. Read post: Natural Predators For Japanese Beetles.

      Thanks so much for your comment, Terri.

      Delete
  19. People, it's this simple. Native ladybugs, the ones you grew up with, red back, do not bite. But the new orange back Asian beetles which look like orange ladybugs DO bite and it hurts!

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  20. AnonymousMay 09, 2013

    May 9 2013 School Nurse
    Today I found a red and black dot lady bug on left forearm went to flick off after feeling a sting like feeling.I was driving. After 3-5 mins got a small wheal(mosquito bite size) cleansed with hand cleaner I had in the car. When I got home in about 5mins washed with soap and water. Still hurt and slightly swelling. I applied hydrocortisone cream. Shocked but googled -never thought lady bugs bit. After 8- 10min decided on a Zyrtec. Hx of wasp allergy.

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  21. Can lady bugs produce allergic reactions (welts and itching) in dogs if they are eaten?

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  22. Lady bugs can bite. Their diet consists of small insects and mites. It is more of a pinch. They are not blood suckers and do not inject anything but for a sensitive person in a sensitive spot it can irritate for a while. Like any other small injury, clean it with a dab of witch hazel followed by a dab of aloe or lavender oil or tea tree oil should do it if you need to do anything at all.

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