What are ladybugs?
There are about 5,000 different species of ladybugs in the world. These much loved critters are also known as lady beetles or ladybird beetles. Ladybugs are beetles that are oval to almost round in shape. They are approximately 1/16 – 1/4 inch long. They come in many different colors and patterns, but the most familiar in North America is the seven-spotted ladybug, with its shiny, red-and-black body. In many cultures, ladybugs are considered good luck.
Even though they may be considered good luck throughout a lot of the world, they can get to be pretty annoying when they invade in large numbers, and even the occasional ladybug can get on people nerves. If you're looking for lady bug control in the greater Washington DC & Baltimore areas, give us a call today, or book online!
What kinds of ladybugs are there?
While there are thousands of different species of ladybugs with unique patterns, such as dots or strips, the ones most commonly found in the greater Washington DC & Baltimore areas include:
- Seven-spotted ladybugs, which are the most common in the US
- Two-spotted ladybugs, which have two spots, as the name suggests.
- Asian lady beetles, which often have orange or yellow coloring instead of red.
- Convergent ladybugs, which can have upwards of 12 black spots.
What do ladybugs look like?
Most ladybugs have oval, dome-shaped bodies with six short legs. Depending on the species, they can have spots, stripes, or no markings at all. Seven-spotted ladybugs are red or orange with three spots on each side and one in the middle. Ladybugs are colorful for a reason, and they have a black head with white patches on either side. Their markings tell predators: "Eat something else! I taste terrible." When threatened, the bugs will secrete an oily, foul-tasting fluid from joints in their legs. They may also play dead. Birds are ladybugs' main predators, but they also fall victim to frogs, wasps, spiders, and dragonflies. Ladybugs lay their eggs in clusters or rows on the underside of a leaf, usually where aphids have gathered. Larvae, which vary in shape and color based on species, emerge in a few days. Seven-spotted ladybug larvae are long, black, and spiky-looking with orange or yellow spots. Some say they look like tiny alligators. Larvae grow quickly and shed their skin several times. When they reach full size, they attach to a leaf by their tail, and a pupa is formed. Within a week or two, the pupa becomes an adult ladybug.
Are ladybugs dangerous?
Overall, ladybugs are harmless. Many cultures believe that these shiny, red-and-black bodied insects bring luck and well-being. However, though ladybugs help gardeners by feeding on pests like aphids and mites, they can become a problem for homeowners when hundreds of ladybugs try to hibernate in your home in the fall and winter.
Can ladybugs bite?
Yes, ladybugs can bite if provoked, though they rarely have the force to break the skin. While their bites are not overly harmful and can not transmit any diseases or parasites, some people experience minor allergic reactions to ladybug bites in the form of a raised red bump.
Are ladybugs poisonous?
Yes, ladybugs are poisonous and contain a mild toxic component, though only dangerous if ingested. Like many insects, ladybugs use something called “aposematic coloration,” which means they use their bright, contrasting colors to signal to predators that they are poisonous and that the predator should stay away.
Aren't ladybugs beneficial insects?
Most people like ladybugs because they are pretty, graceful, and harmless to humans. But farmers love them because they eat aphids and other plant-eating pests. One ladybug can eat up to 5,000 insects in its lifetime!
The name "ladybug" was coined by European farmers who prayed to the Virgin Mary when pests began eating their crops. After ladybugs came and wiped out the invading insects, the farmers named them "beetle of Our Lady." This eventually was shortened to "lady beetle" and "ladybug."
Why do I have a ladybug problem?
Ladybugs are happy in many different habitats, including grasslands, forests, cities, suburbs, and along rivers. Seven-spotted ladybugs are native to Europe but were brought to North America in the mid-1900s to control aphid populations. Ladybugs are most active from spring until fall. When the weather turns cold, they look for a warm, secluded place to hibernate, such as in rotting logs, under rocks, or even inside houses. These hibernating colonies can contain thousands of ladybugs.
Ladybugs can be a nuisance when they fly to buildings in search of overwintering sites and end up indoors. Once inside they crawl about on windows, walls, attics, etc., often emitting a noxious odor and yellowish staining fluid before dying. In many areas of the U.S., these autumn invasions are such a nuisance that they affect quality of life.
Where did the ladybugs come from?
During the 1960s to 1990s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture attempted to establish the Asian lady beetle to control agricultural pests, especially of pecans and apples. Large numbers of the beetles were released in several states including Georgia, South Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi, California, Washington, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Maryland.
What do ladybugs eat?
Ladybugs are considered very beneficial by gardeners and farmers, as they eat aphids, mites, and other pests that can damage crops. Some garden centers will sell live ladybugs as a form of natural aphid control. In its native land, the Asian lady beetle is mainly tree-dwelling, living in forests and orchards. In Japan, it is also abundant in soybean fields. In the U.S., the beetles inhabit ornamental and agricultural crops, including roses, corn, soybeans, alfalfa and tobacco. During spring and summer, the larvae and adults feed mainly on aphids, consuming hundreds per day.
Where will I find ladybugs?
While ladybugs are not harmful to humans, they can become a nuisance—especially in fall and winter when they try to get into your home in search of a warm, safe space to hibernate. Ladybugs can appear in the attic, along window sills, or even in walls and release a powerful pheromone to signal others that they have found an excellent spot to spend the winter. Unfortunately, this can cause hundreds of ladybugs to enter your home. Once the beetles alight on buildings, they seek out crevices and protected places to spend the winter. They often congregate in attics, wall cavities, and other protected locations.
As autumn approaches, the adult beetles leave their summer feeding sites in yards, fields and forests for protected places to spend the winter. Unfortunately, homes and buildings are one such location. Swarms of lady beetles typically fly to buildings in September though November depending on locale and weather conditions. In the DC-Baltimore area, most migration to buildings occurs in late October to early November. Beetle flights are heaviest on sunny days following a period of cooler weather, when temperatures return to at least the mid-60s. Consequently, most flight activity occurs in the afternoon and may vary in intensity from one day to the next.
What attracts ladybugs?
Contrasting light-dark features tend to attract the beetles -- dark shutters on a light background, light shutters on a dark background, windows edged with light-colored trim, gutters and downspouts on contrasting siding, etc. Dwellings near woods or fields are especially prone to infestation, although those in other locations can be infested as well.
How do I get rid of ladybugs?
At present, Asian lady beetles appear to have few natural enemies. A small percentage of beetles are parasitized by tiny wasps and flies, while up to 80% are infected by a fungus in central Kentucky, which is only occasionally lethal. As a defense against predators, the beetles secrete a foul smelling yellowish fluid from their leg joints when disturbed. Some mortality occurs at sub-freezing temperatures, although survival is enhanced within buildings and other protected locations if adequate moisture or humidity is available.
While a ladybug infestation typically does not pose a direct threat to you, your family, or your pets, you may still want to eliminate these unwanted houseguests. The easiest way to do this is to get professional help. Our expert technicians at Miche Pest Control offer eco-friendly and safe solutions for everyone in your family.
How can I prevent ladybugs in the future?
Studies have shown that Asian lady beetles are attracted to illuminated surfaces. They tend to congregate on the sunnier, southwest sides of buildings illuminated by afternoon sun. Homes or buildings shaded from afternoon sun are less likely to attract beetles. House color or type of construction (concrete, brick, wood/vinyl siding) is less of a factor for attraction than surface contrast.
Here are a few tips and tricks to prevent ladybugs from getting into your home:
- Ensure that all doors and windows seal shut by using door sweeps, thresholds, or weather stripping. As ladybugs can squeeze through openings as small as 1/16 of an inch, it may be worth using high-quality silicone or acrylic latex caulk to seal gaps around windows.
- Check for alternate entry points around pipes, wires, meters, and television cables using caulk, expandable foams, steel wool, or copper mesh.
- Plant flowers that are known to repel ladybugs naturally, like mums and lavender. For additional resistance, consider putting those plants into pots and placing them inside your home.
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