How to Tell the Difference Between Ladybugs and Bugs That Look Like Ladybugs

Large numbers of ladybugs often find their way into houses or other buildings in autumn looking for places to spend the winter. While most people call these insects ladybugs, other commonly used names include lady beetles and ladybird beetles. While ladybugs are beneficial predators of plant-eating insects, sometimes during the colder months, ladybugs will swarm homes to spend the winter season.

What Do Ladybugs Look Like?

Ladybug adults are about ½ inch long with a partially hidden head, 2 short antennae and two sets of wings. The outer black or red spotted wings, called the elytra, are hardened to protect the more delicate flight wings beneath. There are about 150 species of ladybugs found in the United States that largely vary in appearance. The most common ladybug wing color is red, but some ladybugs have yellow, orange, grey, black, or even pink outer wings. Some people mistakenly believe the number of spots signify the beetle’s age.

How to Identify Different Types of Ladybugs

Ladybugs can be identified primarily upon two important characteristics— the main body color and the number of spots plus the coloration pattern on the ladybug’s outer wings.

The seven-spotted ladybug is one of the most-recognized species and is bright red with seven black spots on its back. Other ladybugs include the convergent lady beetle, the 14-spotted, 20-spotted, and the 2-spotted ladybugs. Some ladybugs are black with red spots, others are white with tiny black markings, whereas others have striped bodies.

Ladybug Look Alikes

While most ladybugs are beneficial, some ladybug look-alikes can be serious plant pests. Ladybug look-alikes that can be destructive to your garden, include the Mexican bean beetle, that feeds on bean plants and the squash lady beetle, that feeds on summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, bean, and pea plants. Other look-alikes are clerid beetles, scarlet lily beetles, and Colorado potato beetles.

How Are Asian Lady Beetles Different From Ladybugs?

The multicolored Asian lady beetle was imported into the US and other countries to control crop-destroying pests; however, it has since become a nuisance. Asian lady beetles look very similar to native ladybugs but differ in that they have bites that can cause allergic skin reactions. Also, when Asian lady beetles feel threatened or are crushed, they may excrete a foul-smelling, yellow liquid. This excretion isn’t dangerous but may stain walls and fabrics or trigger minor allergic reactions.

Unlike native ladybugs, Asian lady beetles often enter homes in response to a chemical attractant pheromone that encourages them to return to that site year after year. As such, if you see ladybugs congregating in or around your home in fall or winter, they are likely Asian lady beetles.

Where Do Ladybugs Live?

Ladybug typically live in shrubs, trees, fields, gardens and sometimes in homes. They often lay their eggs near a colony of aphids, which are their main food. Because ladybugs get water from the moisture in the aphids they eat, they do not need to live near sources of water. When temperatures get below 55 degrees F, ladybugs do not fly, so, they must find a place to hibernate during the cold weather.

How to Get Rid of Ladybugs

Sealing cracks and gaps around windows, openings in siding and ensuring your screens are in a good repair is the best strategy to keep ladybugs outside. For those ladybugs that have come indoors, use a vacuum cleaner to remove them and do not squash them. Since these beetles will emit a smelly liquid when crushed, use a shop vac instead of a household vacuum, for clean-up. Whenever pest control help is needed, call your local Orkin Branch office and a trained Orkin Pest Specialist will inspect and develop a customized treatment strategy that best fits your needs.

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