Asian lady beetles can vary in color and have an "M" shaped marking on their backs, which help to differentiate them from lady bugs. Photo courtesy University of Wisconsin Milwaukee
Nov. 23 -- Asian lady beetles have been finding their ways into the homes of many people across the Midwestern United States this season, and if a warm trend continues, they may stick around for a while.
"They find a way inside, it's warm, so they're going to become active," Tim Abbey, a commercial horticulture educator from Penn State Extension, explained. "And that's why people see them in their house, flying or walking."
Asian lady beetles, while they may look similar to ladybugs, are an invasive species in the U.S. that are native to eastern Asia.
They were first introduced in the U.S. by the Department of Agriculture as a biological control agent. Ladybugs are harmless creatures that provide benefits to the environment, like controlling garden pests, whereas the Asian lady beetle is aggressive, and can sometimes bite.
"They'e hungry, and skin is soft so they're just gonna pinch," Abbey said. "They're not like a mosquito or something like that that's actually trying to take blood. It's more of like an incidental thing."
The pesky creatures are known for swarming on white surfaces -- such as white houses. Because of this, homeowners can sometimes find them lurking inside, but pet owners beware -- the lady beetles are harmful to dogs, and if a dog swallows enough of them it could get ill.
Abbey said the bugs can come in various shades of orange, some appearing a true orange color while others can look nearly red, and others can have a washed out, almost bleached appearance. Some lady beetles have spots, while others do not.
If you see an Asian lady beetle in your home, its best to not squish it as they use "defensive bleeding," in which they leak a fluid between the joints in their legs.
While they might be bothersome when they enter your home, Abbey explained that they are useful during growing season, when they feed on sap-sucking insects.
"They are out there serving a role during the growing season, in home gardens and also with agricultural production," he said.
Due to an unusually warm fall, lady beetles have been able to stay alive longer this year. However, most of their food has already died for the season.
"Even if it stays, for some weird reason, up in the 50s for the rest of the month, there's nothing for them to feed on outside," Abbey explained. "They're gonna just starve and die."
The Midwest has experienced a warmer-than-usual fall season thus far. According to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dave Bowers, the region experienced temperatures about 3 degrees above normal from Sept. 1 until mid-November, which he said is a significant considering the length of time.
As November closes out and December begins, Bowers said the warm trend could begin to mellow.
"A series of cold fronts will mean a roller coaster pattern continuing with temperatures likely to be near or only slightly above normal and precipitation above normal," Bowers said.
Reporting by Sarah Gisriel