The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.

Photo Friday – Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis)

I’ve ranted about unwelcome insects invading our home before.  The springtime culprits are cluster flies.  This time of year, it’s exotic Asian Lady Beetles, Harmonia axyridis (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae). They were introduced to North America in the 1970’s to control aphid populations and are now one of the most widespread lady beetle species in Canada, due to their winter-hardiness and reproductive rate. 

They make nuisances of themselves at light sources (*bonk* *whap* bonk*), poop on the walls, AND they bite. No seriously, they bite. The cats will chase but not eat them, because they’re reflex bleeders that exude stinky, foul-tasting hemolymph as a form of chemical defense.

I guess they’re sort of pretty though. Sigh.

Asian lady beetle

Harmonia axyridis, the Asian Lady Beetle

One other (kinda neat) thing about this species is the enormous variability is displays in terms of colour, pattern and shape. This individual, for example, is one of the smaller, and redder specimens I’ve ever come across. The number and size of spots can vary, the dominant color can range from black to red…it’s a tough one to ID sometimes!

However, the prothorax (between the head and the wings) holds the most reliable clue. If you look at the black pattern (which is surrounded by large white areas on either side) you’ll note that it forms the shape of the letter “W”, or “M”, if you’re looking at it the other way. This character is pretty consistent regardless of what the rest of the body is doing, color-wise!

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6 responses to “Photo Friday – Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis)

  1. xandimusic November 25, 2011 at 8:59 AM

    faboulous shot, brilliant!!!

  2. George Sims November 25, 2011 at 1:16 PM

    Geeky,

    In order to recapture the smell of lady beetles, I’ve always felt you should lick your finger, then run it across the bottom of a dirty ashtray. It is, indeed, a distinctive aroma.

    The folks at the “Lost Ladybug Project” are doing a neat job of mapping the distribution of these little beetles. Nice “citizen science project” at http://www.lostladybug.org.

  3. dragonflywoman November 25, 2011 at 11:44 PM

    I am actually a little nervous about ladybugs due to that biting habit they have. It’s a mild fear I picked up as a young kid and it hasn’t ever quite gone away. I’ll pick up enormous water bugs no problem, but I think a moment before I pick a ladybug up. Sometimes I feel like a little bit of a failure as a bug lover… 🙂

    • TGIQ November 28, 2011 at 9:28 AM

      Funny, I’d never been bit by ladybugs before until these little buggers showed up. They definitely nip! I’m a little more cautious about the giant water bugs…I’ll pick them up but I’m very mindful of the bitey-bits!!! No, not a failure (if that was the case my arachnophobia would disqualify me immediately!)

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