October 12th, 2021 by
You might have noticed you have a few uninvited house guests gathering in your home lately – huge swarms of ladybirds! Even if you haven’t found any in your house, you may have seen videos of these cute, spotted bugs huddling together around people’s door frames. It seems like there’s a sudden nationwide surge in ladybirds. But is it anything to be concerned about and what can you do about it?
Are Ladybirds Dangerous?
No, not at all. In fact, ladybirds are quite beneficial as they eat other household and garden pests like aphids. They don’t bite and are unlikely to cause any damage to your property, either. You may have heard urban myths stating ladybirds are venomous (meaning they have a nasty bite) or poisonous (meaning they’re toxic when eaten). Neither of these is true, so they’re no threat to you or your pets. The worst you can say about them is that they can carry allergens, meaning they can induce hayfever-like symptoms in some people.
Where Are All These Ladybirds Coming From?
The bugs are just doing what comes naturally to them, but what’s unusual about this year are the weather conditions. We’ve had a quick cold snap followed by an unseasonably warm spell. The cold snap has signalled to all the ladybirds at once that it’s time to find a place to hibernate. The warmer weather we’ve seen recently is giving them the perfect opportunity to do so safely. This is drawing them into the warmest, safest places they can find – usually, our homes!
This process occurs every year, but the rapidly-changing weather this year means it’s happening all at once, resulting in large swarms of ladybirds.
What Can I Do to Get Rid of These Ladybirds?
If they aren’t bothering you and you can cope with seeing them on your doorframe, you don’t need to do anything. They’ll likely disappear within about a week as they’ll find somewhere dark and quiet in or around the walls. However, if you can’t simply ignore these uninvited guests, you might find them quite annoying.
Luckily, there’s a simple, humane method of evicting them. Just vacuum them up! Ladybirds will survive a quick trip into your vacuum cleaner – just remember to empty your vacuum outside as soon as you’re done to let them fly free again. If you have a bit more time on your hands, you can open your door and try to shoo them out with a dustpan and brush.
Are Ladybirds Poisonous?
As we discussed above, no known species of ladybirds are poisonous to humans or pets. This myth likely comes from the fact that ladybirds do produce a sort of toxin when threatened, but this toxin is only effective against other insects and spiders. If you’ve ever had a ladybird on your hand, you might notice they sometimes leave behind a dark orange substance – this is the toxin. However, if you lose track of your dog and accidentally let them eat a ladybird, there’s no need to worry.
Are There Different Kinds of Ladybirds?
There are over 5,000 species of ladybirds in the world, inhabiting every corner of the globe except the polar regions. 46 of those species are now native to the UK. Each one has different colours and markings.
Do Ladybirds Carry Disease?
You may have seen news sites reporting shocking headlines about an imported species of ladybird that has brought a fatal infectious disease along with it. Fortunately, these headlines are nowhere near as shocking as they seem. It is true that the Harlequin ladybird – which is black and has large red spots – was accidentally introduced to the UK in 2004, and it did bring a new disease with it. However, this disease is only infectious among and fatal to other ladybirds. This is concerning for environmentalists, though, who are worried about the impact this new species could have on native ladybird populations.
Can You Tell a Ladybird’s Age by How Many Spots It Has?
No. It’s a myth that ladybirds get more spots as they age. The number of spots each bug has is determined by its species. Depending on the species, a ladybird can live for up to three years.
Why Are They Called Ladybirds?
As always, there are many explanations for this, and it’s unclear which one is true. The name appears to come from the Middle Ages phrase “Our Lady’s Bird”, which is a reference to the Virgin Mary (also commonly called Our Lady). Mary was often depicted as wearing a scarlet cloak in Middle Ages paintings, and in Catholic imagery would be depicted with seven arrows or spears piercing her heart, representing seven sorrows. When you consider that the most common species of ladybird is the seven-spot ladybird, which is red with seven black spots, it makes sense!
A common story is that one summer, farmers across the nation were plagued by aphids destroying their crops. The Catholic farmers prayed to Mary, so the story goes, and were saved by a swarm of ladybirds who arrived to eat the aphids. This led to the “Our Lady’s Bird” name, which over time became “ladybird”. It’s impossible to say whether this story has any truth to it, but it’s certainly nice to think about!
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