Swarms of ladybirds are being pictured and filmed up and down the country, crawling all over people and nestling on walls or in the corners of people’s homes.
Some are black and many reports are referencing “STD-riddled ladybirds”. But is that true and are they dangerous?
Here’s what you need to know about ladybirds.
Firstly, the STD reference is true. Ladybirds are highly promiscuous and sexually transmitted diseases are common. They also show cannibalistic tendencies.
Bet that’s put a new angle on those cute, spotty little creatures beloved of children and kids’ books.
There are more ladybirds in general at the moment. There are actually 46 species of ladybird in Britain. But one that’s getting particular attention at the moment is the Harlequin ladybird, which can appear more black than red.
What are Harlequin ladybirds?
The harmonia axyridis species, otherwise known as Harlequin ladybirds, has been described as “the most invasive ladybird on Earth”.
It is a varied species which carries a large range of colours and they can have red, orange and yellow-ish markings.
It is larger and more aggressive than other ladybirds and will even eat them.
What do I need to know about ladybird STDs?
STDs are common in ladybirds. Several species are affected by mites which feed on the ladybird’s blood and have babies. When ladybirds have sex, the mites can “move house”. This can affect female ladybirds, who could then lay smaller batches and her eggs will be less viable.
The ladybirds carry a disease called laboulbeniales, a form of fungi.
It isn’t known exactly what effect it has on the bugs but it causes yellow finger-like growths.
Scientists say the fungus, which is passed on through mating, will infect our native species which are already under threat from habitat loss.
While they don’t yet know if the fungus is harmful, the UK Ladybird Survey says it is possible that the disease affects the lifespan or the number of eggs a female can produce in her lifetime.
Can humans catch ladybird STDs?
No. It can’t be passed on to humans and laboulbeniales isn’t harmful to us either.
Why are there so many ladybirds around now?
Experts say numbers have been boosted following the heatwave .
And now that autumn has arrived and temperatures have cooled, the little red insects are hibernating in buildings.
They are looking for small cracks around windows and doors over the colder months.
But they’re also swarming on people too. Elaine Petersen in Merthyr Mawr, near Bridgend, pictured herself covered in them.
She said: “The castle wall was heaving with them. I was taking pictures of the castle, and my son said ‘you’re covered in ladybirds mum!’
“I’m not scared of anything like that, creepy crawlies don’t faze me at all so I just stood there and let them land on me.
“Apparently people saw loads of them yesterday right across Cardiff, but not as many as that.”
What to do if ladybirds are in your home
Ladybird survey organiser Peter Brown told the BBC that Harlequin ladybirds sometimes bite people if no food is available, which can leave a little bump and sting. Some people may have a severe allergic reaction to it.
But he said that if you see the Harlequins in your home, it could be better to leave them be be easiest to leave them – adding when they are disturbed they secrete a yellowish substance that can stain furnishings.