The UK is being invaded by a swarm of STD-carrying ladybirds, according to tabloid headlines. But fear not, a leading insect biologist has calmed our fears that you could get a grim infection from those unsuspecting polka dot bugs.
Here’s the lowdown on #ladybirdgate as they start heading indoors for winter.
There’s no denying ladybirds love to congregate. In fact Professor Adam Hart, biologist at the University of Gloucestershire, tells HuffPost UK he had to turf about 20 out of his house just yesterday.
While they can be pretty annoying, invading your home in gangs (ugh), they’re actually just looking for a place to stay before winter hits. Prof Hart explains: “Over winter, ladybirds hibernate. To do that they like to find a nice place to be and they often form clusters that will hibernate together, which gives them a bit of extra warmth and a bit of protection.” Cute.
One species that’s making a particular nuisance of itself this year is the Harlequin ladybird, a population that is fairly new to the UK but doing pretty well for itself. They are larger than your average ladybird and vary in how they appear, particularly in terms of colour.
“They’re completely harmless,” says Prof Hart. “They’re ladybirds: they’re not venomous animals, they’re not aggressive in any way. They are distasteful – if you were to eat one for example you wouldn’t find it very pleasant. They’re quite bitter.”
So on to the question we’ve all been waiting for: do ladybirds carry sexually transmitted diseases and are humans at risk?
“They do carry disease like virtually every animal – including us,” says Prof Hart.
But don’t worry people, the sexually transmitted diseases that ladybirds carry are, funnily enough, ladybird-exclusive STDs. In other words, we aren’t going to catch them.
“They’re not transmittable to humans and even if you were able to have sex with a ladybird, you wouldn’t be able to pick it up,” he adds.
“They’re a good thing, ladybirds. We don’t need to fear them or worry about their sexual behaviour.”
We can all say “phew” to that.