Bugs That Look Like Ladybugs

Ladybugs are attractive beetles and are usually considered beneficial to have around. These predatory bugs eat plant pests, like aphids, in large numbers, and are often welcomed in gardens. However, there are several other beetles that look like ladybugs and some (like the Asian Lady Beetle) are nuisance species.

What are ladybugs?

Ladybugs (aka ladybug beetles, or ladybirds) are colorful, spotted beetles of the Coccinellidae family. Ladybugs are widespread throughout North America and Europe but are generally not considered a pest species. In fact, they are usually welcomed by farmers and gardeners because of their tendency to eat large numbers of aphids and other plant-gobbling insects.

The term ‘ladybug’ is used to describe all members of the Coccinellidae family, but that doesn’t mean they’re all the same type of bug! In fact, there are around 5,000 different species of ladybugs, and their appearance can vary quite a lot.

Most ladybugs are red with black spots and dome-shaped bodies. However, they can also be orange, yellow, brown, or black, and the number of spots can also vary significantly.

For this reason, there are several other types of insects that are often mistaken for ladybugs when, in reality, they are a completely different type of insect!

What are the most common types of insects that look like ladybugs?

Asian Lady Beetles

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The Asian Lady Beetle is very often mistaken for a ladybug, as their markings can be very similar. Their color can range from red to orange to brown and, like the ladybug, they are adorned with black spots.

Did you know?

This invasive species is thought to have made its way over to North America from Asia sometime in the 1980s and today can be found in most parts of the US. Like their European counterparts, the Asian Lady Beetle mostly lives outdoors and preys on plant-eating pests. However, they have one very annoying habit, and that’s their tendency to infest buildings.

Asian Lady Beetles don’t like the cold so, as autumn approaches, large numbers of them move into houses to seek shelter for the winter. Unfortunately, they make terrible house guests and frequently stain surfaces with the yellowish secretions they emit when disturbed. They also smell bad, may cause allergies in sensitive individuals, and have even been known to ‘pinch’ when handled.

How can you tell them apart from ladybugs?

The two may look very similar, but there are some key differences between ladybugs and Asian Lady Beetles that can help you tell them apart:

  • Ladybugs are generally smaller than Asian Lady Beetles.
  • Ladybugs have rounder bodies.
  • Asian Lady Beetles have an M- or W-shaped marking behind the head that is absent in ladybugs.
  • Asian Lady Beetles invade houses; ladybugs don’t.
  • Asian Lady Beetles may bite; ladybugs don’t.

Clerid Beetles

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Clerid Beetles (AKA Checkered Beetles) are found worldwide and can vary significantly in their coloring and body shape. One variety, however, has a red body and black spots and looks a lot like the common ladybug. Fortunately, Clerid Beetles are harmless. They feed on pollen and other species of beetles, including wood-boring beetles and bark beetles. Because of their feeding habits, they are sometimes considered beneficial to have around, as wood borers can cause significant damage to property if left unchecked.

How can you tell them apart from ladybugs?

Clerid Beetles come in all sorts of colors and shapes, but one variety looks very similar to the ladybug. However, on closer inspection you’ll see that:

  • Clerid Beetles have elongated bodies, whereas ladybugs are round.
  • Clerid Beetles have long, antler-like antennae.
  • Clerid Beetles may have fewer and larger black spots than ladybugs.

Spotted Cucumber Beetles

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Cucumber Beetles may be striped or spotted, and the spotted variety looks rather a lot like a yellow ladybug. They are also outdoor insects and, like the ladybug, are often found hanging around plants (usually those in the squash family).

These yellow bugs may look like ladybugs, but they can spell bad news for your cucumbers. Whereas ladybugs are beneficial insects to have around your garden (thanks to their huge appetites for aphids) Cucumber Beetles are actually plant pests. Their larvae feast on the roots and stems of young plants, causing wilting and plant death. As adults, spotted cucumber beetles can cause extensive damage to plant fruits, and will also chew holes through the leaves and flowers of fruits.

To make matters even worse, the Spotted Cucumber Beetle is a serious vector of several plant diseases including Fusarium wilt, mosaic viruses, muskmelon necrotic spot virus, and cucurbit bacterial wilt.

How can you tell them apart from ladybugs?

Spotted Cucumber Beetles share some physical similarities with ladybugs, but you can easily tell them apart if you look closely:

  • Spotted Cucumber Beetles have elongated bodies, ladybugs are more rounded.
  • Spotted Cucumber Beetles have longer antennae than ladybugs.
  • Spotted Cucumber Beetles are often yellow but can also be green in color. If you see a green bug that looks like a ladybug, it’s probably a Cucumber Beetle!

Conclusion

The classic ladybug look is a red body and black spots. However, there are actually around 5000 different species of ladybug out there, and they can vary significantly in appearance. Ladybug colors can range from yellow to orange and even brown, and there are yet more ladybug looking bugs that can make identification even trickier.

The most common type of ladybug imposter is the Asian Lady Beetle, an invasive species that has become widespread across the US since the 1980s. They may look friendly, but these lookalikes are actually nuisance insects known for invading houses in autumn time. Another ladybug looking bug is the Spotted Cucumber Beetle, which is a serious pest of squash plants.

Learning to tell your ladybirds from their lookalikes is, therefore, vital for protecting your garden and home from pest invasions.

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