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.
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.