Ladybugs don’t seem likely to bother people.
They’re cute, quiet and don’t bite or sting. They even help control garden pests.
Unfortunately, some people are allergic to these otherwise benign beetles.
And a pilot study published recently in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology suggests this problem may be common.
Though they typically live outdoors, ladybugs sometimes hibernate in buildings during cold weather.
Researchers surveyed almost one-hundred Kentucky residents whose homes were infested. Only one person per household was questioned.
The survey asked about the timing and duration of infestations, respondents’ allergy history and allergy symptoms associated with infestations.
Three-quarters of respondents reported having some sort of allergy, providing a starting point for comparisons.
Researchers defined ladybug allergy as the occurrence of at least two symptoms when the insects were nearby. These symptoms included sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, cough, shortness of breath and rash.
Under this definition, half the respondents had a ladybug allergy.
The scientists found ladybugs had the greatest impact during winter.
More than half of the respondents with infested homes said their allergy symptoms worsened during winter, compared with six percent of people without infestations.
The disparity was less during other seasons, although allergy symptoms were most common during spring.
Researchers emphasized the study was only a starting point. But they concluded ladybug allergy needs closer scrutiny.
So if you’re unexpectedly wheezy and sneezy during cold weather, keep alert. It could be you’re running a bed and breakfast… for bugs.