Ladybug, Lady Beetle, Ladybird Beetle… Are these all different insects? Are they beetles, bugs, or birds? It’s all very confusing and normally we don’t care because we know they are the little round red insect with spots that eat aphids. They’re good for goodness sake! But what about all these little “good guys” that are invading your house or your car this winter? They don’t seem so good!
First let’s straighten out all these crazy names:
- Ladybug, lady beetle and ladybird beetle all refer to the same group of insects. It’s a group of beetles known to scientists as the family Coccinellidae.
- There are around 6,000 species of ladybugs in the world and around 200 of them are found in Texas. Think of this like 200 different “kinds” of ladybugs in Texas.
- While they may look and act a little different, they are all generally beneficial as predators of aphids, scale insects, and/or whiteflies.
- The name “Lady” is actually a nod to the Virgin Mary (Our Lady) and her 7 Joys and 7 Sorrows. This started in Europe where the dominant species of ladybug was red with 7 spots and early paintings of the Virgin Mary depicted her in a red cloak. Later, we Americans came up with ladybug and we entomologists made it lady beetle and all the different people in the world came up with their own variations.
Let’s finally end this entomological tale with the answer to our very first question…what’s with the ladybugs trying to take over your house or your car?
- Those mini home invaders are a specific kind of ladybug known as the Asian ladybug. It’s official scientific name is Harmonia axyridis.
- They are originally from Asia and were intentionally released many times in North America to control aphids. The first time was in 1916, but they never became established until the late 1980’s. Allegedly, this is because they were so efficient at eating aphids, they would always run out of food.
- Once they finally became established, we learned about their dark side. Much like some unwelcome distant relatives, they invade homes and vehicles during the Fall Holidays, leave orange stains, smell kind of bad, and may bite you for no good reason.
- The best way to control Asian ladybugs that invade your house is to properly seal your house and treat entry points with insecticide. Even then, there may be quite a few that get in. For those, your best alternative is to vacuum them up.