One of the main differences between ladybugs and asian lady beetles is the area just behind the head but in front of the colorful wing casings. The asian lady beetle will have a white section with a distinctive black ‘M” shape. The same part of the ladybug will be black with two small white markings. Additionally, asian lady beetles have light brown legs, while ladybugs have black or dark brown legs. Next, asian lady beetles have white faces with black markings near the eyes. In comparison, ladybugs have black faces with two white spots between the eyes. Finally, the number of spots often differs between asian lady beetles and ladybugs. An asian lady beetle can have up to 22 spots, while ladybugs have no more than 13.
Do Asian Beetles Look Like Ladybugs?
At first glance, the asian lady beetle looks very similar to the ladybug. Both insects have a rounded shape, range in color from orange to red, and have black spots. These similarities are due to the fact that both beetles come from the same scientific family. However, the asian lady beetle is an invasive species, while ladybugs are native to North America and Europe.
- Asian lady beetles have a very similar appearance to ladybugs.
- Ladybugs and asian lady beetles are closely related.
- Both types of beetles have an oval body that ranges in color from yellowish-orange to red.
- Asian lady beetles and ladybugs both commonly have black spots on their body.
- Once you know what to look for, you can tell these two beetles apart.
There are key differences that you can look for to determine what type of beetle you’ve found. Once you know what separates the asian lady beetle from its relatives, you’ll be able to identify the invasive imposter.
4 Differences Between Ladybugs and Asian Beetles
The asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis) is an invasive insect that is often mistaken for its relatives. While ladybugs and asian lady beetles are in the same insect family, they have distinct physical characteristics that you can use to determine which beetle you are looking at.
One clear sign that you’ve found an asian lady beetle is the distinctive coloration on the pronotum, which is the area between the head and wings. The asian lady beetle has a largely white pronotum with a characteristic black ‘M’ in the center. Sometimes this ‘M’ more closely resembles four spots that, if they were connected, would form the shape of an ‘M.’ In contrast, this part of most ladybugs’ thorax is black with white spots on either side.
- Asian lady beetles have a white section with a black ‘M’ just behind their head.
- The area just behind most ladybugs’ heads is black with small white markings.
- These markings are one of the best ways to identify asian lady beetles.
Looking for the ‘M’ marking on the part of the beetle just behind its head is particularly important. Some North American species, such as the spotless ladybug, can only be distinguished from the asian lady beetle by these markings.
It should be noted that one species native to North America and Europe, the two-spotted ladybug, also has a dark ‘M’ on its pronotum. Read on to see what characteristics distinguish this species from an asian lady beetle with two spots.
The next method for telling an asian lady beetle apart from its relatives is checking the color of its legs. An asian lady beetle will have light brown or tan-colored legs. Ladybugs have black or very dark brown legs.
- The asian lady beetle has light brown legs.
- The native ladybug has dark brown or black legs.
- The two-spotted ladybug will look almost identical to an asian lady beetle, except for its darker legs.
If you are having a hard time determining the exact color of the insect’s legs, attempt to move it onto a light surface, such as a piece of paper. This will allow you a good look at the leg color. This trick can help you spot some clever mimics that look almost like a ladybug.
Look closely at the head of the beetle—where the antennae, eyes, and mandibles are—to see if you’ve found a ladybug or an asian lady beetle. An asian lady beetle will have a white face with a pair of black spots that look like eyes. Ladybugs have black heads with a pair of white spots between the eyes.
- Asian lady beetles have largely white faces with black behind their eyes.
- Ladybugs have black heads, sometimes with white spots towards the center.
- Use a phone or other camera to take a picture, so you can look for markings even if the beetle flies away.
Getting any species of lady beetle to hold still for a close examination can be difficult. It’s a good idea to take a picture with your phone, if you have it handy. Then, you can zoom in on the picture to look for distinctive markings on the beetle’s head.
Number of Spots
Each asian lady beetle can have a different number of spots on its wing casings. This variation can make it much harder to correctly identify a lady beetle based on spots alone. Some asian lady beetles have 0 spots, while others have up to 22. Ladybugs commonly have 0–13 spots. So, if you spot a lady beetle with 14 or more spots, it’s an asian lady beetle.
- Asian lady beetles can have between 0 and 22 spots.
- Ladybugs have between 0 and 13 spots.
- A lady beetle with more than 13 spots is an asian lady beetle.
- Beetles with 7 or 9 spots—including a spot in the middle—are almost always ladybugs.
Some ladybug species have very distinctive spots and patterns that make identification easier. The nine-spotted ladybug and seven-spotted ladybug always have the number of spots specified in their name. This includes a singular spot in the middle that makes their total number of spots an odd number. If you’ve found a beetle with 7 or 9 spots in this configuration, you can be confident it’s a ladybug.
Do Asian Lady Beetles Harm Ladybugs?
Asian lady beetles are harmful to ladybugs in multiple ways. Because they are predators, asian lady beetles can attack, kill, and eat ladybugs. They also eat aphids—the same main food source ladybugs depend on. Because ladybugs are not as aggressive as asian lady beetles, they are usually the species that is pushed out.
- Asian lady beetles are more aggressive and dominant than other ladybugs, often winning physical disputes.
- An asian lady beetle will consume the young of other beetles, including ladybugs.
- Asian lady beetles compete with ladybugs for food.
- Asian lady beetles can pose a threat to biodiversity and put native species in danger.
Because asian lady beetles occupy the same environments as American ladybugs, the two species compete with one another. Swarms of asian lady beetles can drive out ladybugs, kill ladybug larvae, and take over a region.
What is the Difference Between an Asian Beetle and a Ladybug?
Invasive asian lady beetles can look almost indistinguishable from native species of ladybugs. Here’s how to tell them apart:
- Asian lady beetles have a white section behind the head with a black ‘M’ marking.
- Ladybugs typically have black midsections with small, white markings.
- An asian lady beetle will have light brown legs.
- Ladybugs have black or dark brown legs.
- Asian lady beetles range from yellowish-orange to bright red and they may feature up to 22 spots.
- Many species of ladybug have a specific number of spots, such as seven- and nine-spotted ladybugs.
Once you know what signs to look for, you can tell the difference between an asian lady beetle and a ladybug. With a little practice, you’ll be able to quickly identify the invasive lady beetle and not mistake it for the native ladybug.