Asian Ladybug, with a prominent “M” behind it’s head
I was sure I had seen a strange ladybug when I was up at Lac La Peche last weekend, but my fellow campers poo-pooed my amateur entomology and my enthusiasm. When I mentioned the biting Asian ladybug I’d been hearing about all week to Erica, thinking I had redeemed my keen observations from the campsite, she shot back with “oh yeah, they’ve been around for years now.”
I found that strange since I don’t remember hearing anything about it, so I set about to do a little more research, just to ensure the record was straight.
Sure enough, Erica was right again (I really don’t know why I bother) – this Asian ladybug invasion is old news! A quick search found articles dating back to 2007, and a little more searching found a full history of the invasive species in North America, right back to a stowaway population that made it’s way ashore from a freighter in New Orleans, and quickly spread north. In the early 2000s there was an aphid infestation in southern Ontario (aphids are one of their favourite foods, so much so that they lay their larvae on the underside of leaves where aphids hang out), which is probably when the first major bloom of Asian ladybugs exploded, and they’ve been a pretty regular feature ever since.
The bugs had actually been here in the past: California introduced them as aphid control back in 1916 and 1965, and a number of States did the same in the 1970s and 80s, but those introductions appear to have been controlled and limited.
And they do, in fact, bite – something that feels close to a mosquito, but they don’t draw blood. However, when a large number bite at once – which seems so counter to everything I think I know about ladybugs (namely, that they’re cute) – it can be extremely irritating and itchy.
The Asian ladybug comes in a variety of shades and can have from as many as 19 spots to as few as none, so how can you tell an Asian ladybug when you see one? They all (mostly) have an “M” on the back of their heads.
And what to do if you find yourself face to face with one of these invaders? Well, don’t crush it! Asian ladybugs reportedly stain badly and give off a pungent odour similar to “rancid peanut butter”.