Those orange ladybugs are actually Asian beetles

Updated: Dec. 2, 2016 at 5:21 PM CST
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LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) - You may have seen them flying erratically, crawling on buildings or in your car, even crash landing into your hair. There are a lot of ladybugs around East Texas right now. And the black-spotted orange beetles with a kind of W pattern on their head are not from around here. Those are actually Asian beetles.

You don't have to look too hard to find them, because they are thriving in the East Texas climate. Karen Rispin, biologist at LeTourneau University in Longview, says they were brought to the U.S. decades ago to help control aphids.

"They start building gradually; a population, and when it gets to a certain threshold, then we're much more aware of the population growth," Rispin said.

Rispin says they may be out-competing indigenous ladybugs, and they are finding plenty of aphids to eat, and the aphids eat plants.

"They're actually helping us with the crops, but when it gets cold, these guys overwinter, and they overwinter in cracks in rocks and cliffs and buildings," Rispin revealed.

She says they can live three years, so if they group up in a crack, they'll probably be back next year. She says ladybugs are predators and can bite.

"Every ladybug, if you held it tightly in your hand, might bite you, but they're just chewing you like if you picked up a puppy and it was unhappy with you. Only a few people react to their saliva," Rispin explained.

Although it may look big in video, the beetles are small and the bite is more of an irritation than anything.

But Rispin says the beetles will sometimes eat sweet fruit.

"And that becomes really problematic for people that raise grapes for wine, because if you get a few of these things in and you squash them they add a very bitter taste which ruins the wine," Rispin said.

She says many bugs have the bitter thing going on, so they taste bad to whatever tries to eat them, and, unfortunately, they have another unpleasant quality.

"They stink when you squish them," Rispin added.

And she says they don't really like to be inside buildings because there's not enough moisture in the air, and they end up dead.

Professor Rispin also says the beetles are attracted to light-colored buildings or rocks and tend to clump together in cracks to survive the cold. Although ladybugs are beneficial and you shouldn't kill them, the Asian variety is not indigenous and you may want to use insecticide.

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