Do Ladybugs Bite & Are Ladybugs Poisonous: Painful Truth on Lady Beetles

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Animals | April 1, 2024

Man with a ladybug on his hand wonders do ladybugs bite, are ladybugs poisonous is there a lady beetles and ladybugs guide and how do you spot various types of ladybugs?

Do Ladybugs bite? Are Ladybugs poisonous?

If you live in certain places, you know that at certain times of the year, the ladybugs are everywhere.

However, what you may not know is not all cute little beetle bugs are lady beetles… and some do have a painful bite.

Ladybugs provide a key pest control elements to gardeners, but how can you tell if a bug us really a ladybug and not just some other beetle that looks curiously similar?

Ladybugs, despite their calm demeanor, have a surprisingly aggressive side to them if mishandled… and they can bite.

This complete guide explains how to recognize ladybugs, whether or not they (or their look-alike’s) bite is poisonous, and all the facts surrounding this beloved little beetle.



Ladybugs in oval frame on green background.
  • Native Location: Europe
  • Other Buggy Facts: In the event that a predator is closing in on a ladybug, they have two defense mechanisms. First, they let out a foul-tasting liquid from their legs to stop it from being gobbled up. If that doesn’t work, they stiffen up, keel over, and pretend to be dead. That, too, doesn’t always work.

Image Credit: Ron van den Berg (RonBerg)15

Why Do Ladybugs Bite? What Do Ladybug Bites Look Like?

Do ladybugs bite? Why and what does it look like?

Have you ever wondered what do Ladybug bites look like? Like most insects, ladybugs like to be left in peace and don’t necessarily enjoy being scooped up and played with.

Considering the number of times that they are manhandled and oohed and ahhed over they very rarely bite.

And even when they do try their mandibles are often not strong enough to break the skin. The nip can be felt similar to a needle prick and sometimes a raised welt appears.

In the worst-case scenario, someone with an allergic reaction can develop a rash around the area as well as slight swelling.

Are Ladybugs Poisonous? (The Painful Truth on Lady Beetles)

There is often a misconception that any insect bite is going to mean a trip to the emergency room. Fortunately, that is not the case with Ladybugs or Ladybeetles.1

Side profile of a Ladybug with water droplets showing short legs, oval-shaped and red with black spots body, and black head with white patch.

(Image: cocoparisienne8)

If they were viewed under a microscope they would indeed appear ferocious and quite capable of taking a chunk out of human flesh if provoked. But the truth of the matter is that if they do bite they are far from poisonous as they do not transfer any sort of disease to humans on their mandibles.

The only toxicity they have is in regards to predators, who they don’t want to eat, and prey, who they want to eat.

Predators are warded off by the foul substance they emit, while the aphids that they prey upon are so slow-moving, and during the first stages of their development, are easy to capture.

The much faster ladybugs just saunter up and devour the closest aphid at their leisure.

Asian Lady Beetles

But there is one ladybug that was introduced by the Department of Agriculture into North America that is far from placid.

They were brought in because there was an outbreak of aphids in the 1960s and to combat them a natural predator was imported from Asia because of its aggressive nature towards aphids.

Called the Asian Lady Beetles, they proved to be very efficient at reducing the infestation of aphids, but once they were in the ecosystem, they became invasive and a problem as they migrated from state to state.

This has happened with almost every species transplanted to North America from eastern nations. The plant or animal quickly becomes invasive, threatening to destroy unique species that never encountered it before.

Outwardly, they appeared similar to native species, red or orange with black spots, but what distinguished them was the letter ‘M’ on the back of their heads.

The other difference with Asian Lady Beetles is that they do bite.2 Not enough to break the skin, but enough to be felt.

They also secrete a substance similar to native ladybugs from their legs that is actually more potent. It smells terrible and after handling any of these beetles it is advisable to wash your hands to avoid any accidental eye contact as it can be very irritating and could trigger allergic reactions.

Do ladybugs bite when handled? This one does, yes. But it wasn’t brought in for its mild manners, but to eradicate aphid pests.

It’s a job it does very well and, for that reason, its aggressive nature is often overlooked, although it can be annoying in other ways.

Types of Ladybugs: What Do Ladybugs Eat?

Aphids are not their only source of nourishment, although farmers love them because of the bottomless ability they have to consume as much as 75 aphids a day.

Closeup of Ladybugs on a stem infested with black aphids showing dome-shaped and reddish-orange bodies with black spots.

(Image: Myriams-Fotos9)

Female ladybugs have a tendency of setting up a nest close to an aphid’s colony so that when their eggs hatch, they have ready meals within shuffling distance. And any that are too big for them are easy pickings for the ladybug.

As a form of pest control, they are hard to beat. Other insects that fall victim to them are mealybugs, scale, and spider mites, as well as others.

There are more than 5,000 species of ladybugs in the world, and they all have different dietary requirements, as well as colorful styles, and even different names. In some parts of the world, they are known as ladybirds, while in others lady beetles.

LadybugColorSizeTypes of Insects and Foods EatenNative To
Seven-Spotted Lady BeetleRed with 7 black spots6-10mmAphids, thrips, fungal spores, and pollenEurope and Asia
Two-Spotted Lady BeetlesDeep red and black with 2 red spots on its elytra3-5mmAphids, mites, scale, and insect eggsEurope and North America
Asian Lady BeetlesRed with many black spots. But can be yellow, orange, or black4-7mmAphids and all types of soft-bodied insectsAsia
Eye-Spotted LadybugsOrange with black spots that have a pale ring around them7-10mmAphids, and other insectsNorth America
Side profile of Asian Lady Beetle on a yellow flower showing oval and orange body with black spots on the back and white patches on the head.

Asian Lady Beetle (Image: kie-ker13)

LadybugColorSizeTypes of Insects and Foods EatenNative To
22-Spot LadybirdBright yellow with exactly 22 dots of black3-5mmEats mildewUnited Kingdom
Steelblue Ladybeetle3Metallic blue but can also be metallic green and purple3-4mmScale, psyllids, moth eggsAustralia
Mealybug Destroyer LadybugFully mat black body with an orange head3-4mmMealybugs, scaleAustralia
14-Spotted Lady BeetleMost yellow with square black markings2-4mmAphids and other soft-bodied insectsAfrica, Asia, and Europe
Top shot of two Steelblue Ladybeetles on a palm with one having an iridescent blue body and the other green.

Steelblue Ladybeetles (Image: Richard00110)

LadybugColorSizeTypes of Insects and Foods EatenNative To
Ash Gray Lady BeetleVery light gray with different sizes and shaped black markings3-6mmAphids, psyllids, whiteflies, moth eggs other soft-bodied insectsThe United States
Pink-Spotted Lady BeetleBright pink. Each wing has 6 black dots5-6mmAphids, mites, moth eggs, nymphs, and the larvae of other insects.North America
Yellow-Shouldered LadybirdYellow and slightly hairy with horizontal black stripes connected by a black central line,2-4mmAphids, mealybugs, mites, and other soft-bodied insects.Australia
Transverse LadybirdRed with two black marks3-6mmAphids and other small insectsCanada
Broad-Striped Lady BeetlesIt has an oval-shaped body with black and yellow stripes6-8mmAphids, scale, mites, other insects, nectar, and pollenNorth America
Angled shot of Transverse Ladybird on a stem showing oval and red body with black patches on the back.

Transverse Ladybird (Image: PavanPrasad_IND14)

The variety in coloration and even size is vast, but generally, they are either eating small pests or the occasion leaf to supplement their diet.

Unfortunately, due to climate change and with deforestation eliminating so many trees every year, in some parts of the world, certain species are threatened with extinction.

Which Ladybugs Are Poisonous? (Are Ladybugs Harmful to Pets?)

When people ask ‘Do ladybugs bite?’ they are often more concerned that they may get some venom in their system if this happens.

Fortunately, there are no ladybugs that can harm humans with any sort of poison in the rare off chance that they get bitten, but some sensitive people can have a mild allergic reaction.

Saying that, there are some black and orange ladybugs that carry more toxins than others in the Mexican Bean Beetle bodies. What that means is that if those toxins are released from their legs while on a sensitive person’s skin, the allergic reaction may be worse than normal.

Pets are not so lucky. Like humans, a bite will cause no problems but if one is ingested accidentally or eaten by a curious cat or dog, it can cause problems such as a burning sensation in the throat.

The ladybug’s toxic secretion can also cause some internal problems, and a vet should be consulted if the animal exhibits any signs of drooling, vomiting, drowsiness, or constipation.

Beetles That Can Be Mistaken for Ladybugs

There are beetles that have such a close resemblance to ladybugs that it is hard to tell them apart. Rather than asking ‘Do ladybugs bite?’ a better question should be ‘Is that a ladybug that just bit me?’

The Mexican Bean Beetle and the Squash Lady Beetle are just two look-alikes that have the same coloring and spots but feed on different types of flowers and plants,4 squash, melons, cucumbers, pumpkins and lima, and soybeans instead of insects.

Top shot of a Mexican Bean Beetle perched on a stem of a plant showing oval and copper-colored body with black spots on its back.

(Image: marleny11)

This makes them more of a problem for farmers rather than a form of pest control, as they themselves are the pests.

Their larvae are leaf eaters as well and that only serves to exacerbate the problems faced when they are present.

Other look-alikes are :

  • Clerid Beetles: Often larger than ladybugs at 3-24mm, their colors range from all black to chequered red-black bodies, to striped yellow wings, and to a bold cobalt blue color. They feed on other beetles and their larvae, as well as pollen.
  • Scarlet Lily Beetles: Bright red with black appendages, they feed on leaves, stems, and flowers, and are only 6-9mm long.
  • Colorado Potato Beetles: Striped instead of spotted, they are a dull yellow and grow to about 3-10mm in size, and they are well-known for choosing potatoes as their first choice when it comes to mealtimes.
  • Furniture Carpet Beetle: Found indoors, they feast on all types of wool, feathers, human and pet hair, and even stuffed animals.
  • Eight-Spotted Flea Beetle: Measuring 1-18mm, this leaf-eating beetle has a black body with white spots, long antennae, and a splash of red behind its head.
  • Ladybird-Mimicking Spider: A red shell with black spots enables it to have the appearance of a ladybug, but the legs, head, and body are plainly those of a spider upon closer inspection.
    At only 6mm long, it’s not easy to spot the difference. And they have been known to bite when feeling threatened.

Do Ladybugs Swarm? (Do Ladybugs Bite When They Swarm?)

Solitary by nature, ladybugs don’t mingle well with others, even those of their own species.

So it would come as a surprise to a nature watcher to see thousands of them intermingling in one big horde called an aggregation.

Wide shot of three Ladybugs on a tree branch with white flowers showing oval and reddish-orange bodies with black spots on their backs.

(Image: Oldiefan12)

This occurs at the end of the summer season when the cold starts to become too much to withstand in isolation.

Between November to February, thousands upon thousands of them clump together in this fashion, including Asian Lady Beetles, sharing body heat to stay alive, searching for new love mates, and trading resources like one enormous ladybug convention.

Maintaining the swarm for the duration of the winter is not possible, but mini-swarms break off and depart in various directions in search of shelter that will keep them warm for the next few months.

It is at this point that they become a nuisance to any house they decide to invade,5 not individually, but as a pack, looking for warmth and small insects that have taken up residence in nearby houses to weather the winter.

They gather in attics, around doorframes en masse, under soffits, and behind anything that is warm and sheltered from the weather that they can sneak into.

When there are hundreds of them hunkered down in any part of a house they can quickly become a nuisance, leaving stains behind from their secretions and constantly buzzing around windows, around lights, and frequently creeping indoors for extra warmth.

Related Reading: Tiny House Bugs Pictures and Names: Identify Household Bugs With Easy Chart

What Do Ladybugs Eat in the Winter?

Unlike some insects that close down and hibernate for the winter, ladybugs stay alert but just with a slower metabolism.

They become less active, relying on nutrients they have stored in their body fat throughout the active season to maintain them, although they still need some form of sustenance and water to survive.

So, what do ladybugs eat in the winter? Their normal food source, aphids, mealybugs, and scale insects are still crawling around but are in shorter supply and harder to find.

Because of this, ladybugs tend to extend their menu options by eating other types of soft-bodied insects still around, tree sap, plants, and even some fruits.

How To Get Rid of Ladybugs (Natural Ways To Remove Ladybugs)

Cute they may be when there are just a few of them. When hundreds if not thousands of them have invaded your home through crevices and gaps, they lose their cuteness real quick.

To prevent this from happening and to remove them if they do still sneak inside, follow these simple steps:

  • Secure screens around windows and doors
  • Seal any gaps, holes, or cracks no matter how tiny around windows, near doors, in roof slats, or under soffits
  • Install door sweeps on all doors to stop them from strolling in
  • Plant lavenders or mums around your home as they act as natural repellents
  • Cloves and bay leaves are also natural repellents that can be placed inside that will drive them away
  • To quickly remove ladybugs, use a vacuum on any large clumps of them
  • Special light traps can be used to capture them harmless so they can then be released outside
  • Citrus oil can be used to counteract the pheromones released by ladybugs to attract more of their kind
  • Both a deterrent and a form of pest control, sprinkling a powder called diatomaceous earth which is a natural method of dealing with any ladybug problems.6

Why Do Ladybugs Bite and Other Interesting Facts

Do ladybugs’ bite pose a threat to humans more than the caustic fluid they secrete?

Realistically, the Asian Lady Beetle is the most aggressive of the species in terms of biting, but even they rarely nibble on a friendly hand. Their secretions, on the other hand, can pose more of an allergic reaction.

Always encourage kids to wash their hands after handling them, and be vigilant if any of your pets start taking too close an interest.

What else is there to know about these fascinating creatures?

  • If locked in an enclosed container, ladybugs are more prone to bite humans as they can easily confuse skin for a food source.
  • They eat a lot. And often. Adult ladybugs can eat between 50-75 aphids a day.
  • Ladybug larvae have the capacity to eat 300-400 aphid larvae a day.
  • Ladybugs are both male and female.
  • Female ladybugs are generally bigger, even if it is just by a millimeter.
  • When they fly, their wings flap up to 85 times a second.
  • With a lifespan of 2-3 years, a ladybug can eat over 5,000 aphids.
  • Aposematic coloration is the term used for the defensive colors that ladybugs have that warn off predators.
  • Sometimes infertile eggs are produced, when times are tough, as a ready-made food source for the hatched larvae. During winter, their metabolism slows down so they do not require as much food, and can survive from reserves of fat accumulated during the summer months.

The advantages for farmers and gardeners alike of having these beneficial insects around far outweigh any cons. They prey on other insects that damage crops, leaves, and fruits on all different types of trees there are, and, just like some types of bees, they assist flowers in the pollination process.

Sometimes they are unwelcome guests, but are not harmful and are reasonably easier to clear out.

Depending on the species, the answer the question do ladybugs bite is yes, but the benefits they provide outweigh the minor irritation.

Frequently Asked Questions About Do Ladybugs Bite

Do Ladybugs Eat Plants?

Some ladybugs do eat plants although most of them prefer insects such as aphids.7

Do Ladybugs Have Teeth?

No, ladybugs do not have teeth to bite, just mandibles.

Do Ladybug Bites Hurt?

Do ladybugs bite hard? No, at the most they feel like a quick pinprick.

Do Ladybug Bites Itch?

For some sensitive people, the area around the bite can itch if it triggers an allergic reaction.

Why Do Ladybugs Bite Me When I Pick Them Up?

Ladybugs can sometimes get annoyed when manhandled and can bite, although this rarely happens and if they bite it doesn’t break the skin, just pinches it.


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2Statewide IPM Program. (2023). Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle. UC IPM. Retrieved May 25, 2023, from <>

3Statewide IPM Program. (2023). Steelblue Lady Beetle. UC IPM. Retrieved May 25, 2023, from <>

4Sanchez-Arroyo, H. (2015, January). Mexican bean beetle. Featured Creatures. Retrieved May 25, 2023, from <>

5University of New Hampshire. (2019, October 25). How can I get rid of Asian ladybugs in my house? University of New Hampshire. Retrieved May 25, 2023, from <>

6Schu, M. (2023). What is diatomaceous earth? University of Minnesota Extension. Retrieved May 25, 2023, from <>

7Mahr, S. (2023). Aphids, in-depth. Wisconsin Horticulture. Retrieved May 25, 2023, from <>

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15Ladybugs Insects Pair Photo by Ron van den Berg (RonBerg). (2016, August 17) / Pixabay Content License. Cropped and added text, shape, and background elements. Pixabay. Retrieved February 26, 2024, from <>