What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Strange Ladybug behavior (keeps walking in circles)
Location: Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico
March 11, 2014 4:45 pm
Hi Bugman,
A week ago from now, I found a ladybug in our backyard that could only walk in circles. It was in direct sunlight, just going round and round, so I decided to do something to prevent a likely death from dehydration, and brought it inside.
It’s been with me for the last 7 days, and I have been feeding it small insects when I can, and when I can’t, it seems to enjoy feeding on rice and sugar. I’ve also been keeping a wet Q-tip in its “cage”. But after 7 days, even when it seems to still be in good health, it is still going round and round, and hasn’t stopped.
Just yesterday, I noticed that it began to walk in straight segments for the first time, but each straight run would still always end up in turning back and completing a loop. It also will not fly, although sometimes it extends its wings a bit.
So, my question is not what kind of bug this is, but rather, why is it displaying such bizarre behavior. All of its legs are intact and move fluidly. Is it possible that it was just born crazy somehow? Was its nervous system damaged by a pesticide possibly? As far as I know, there are no pesticides in our backyard.
I found a video on youtube of another person who observed the exact same behavior:
And here’s a video of my own ladybug the moment I found it:
This behavior is beyond my comprehension! It seems so purposeless and suicidal of it to behave like that…
Signature: Humberto

Ladybird Beetle

Ladybird Beetle

Dear Humberto,
We don’t know the answer to your question, but we will post your submission, feature it on our web page, and hope that someone writes in who can provide some information.  We pondered the possibility of some sort of parasite, and though we discovered there is a Wasp that parasitizes a Lady Beetle, turning it into a “zombie bodyguard”, the walking in circles behavior is not mentioned.  See Science Daily for an account of the wasp parasitization.

Update:  March 16, 2014
Thank you so much for your kind response, Mr. Marlos! Here’s an update: The ladybug escaped a few days ago, but was recaptured about 12 hours later. I have recently discovered aphids in our rose plants, and brought a good few into the ladybug’s enclosure, where it has been feasting on them. It is still going in circles though. The first 4 days, the circles it was making were fairly uniform, but now they sometimes distend into straight segments. I have learned a lot about ladybugs just by observing this one. If she stops running in circles before her normal lifespan is over, I will be sure to let you know. I read the article you linked, which was fascinating, but I’m afraid I don’t know how to tell if this ladybug has ever been parasitized.
Thank you! I’m glad to hear I’ve reported on something that was unheard of (I wouldn’t want to send any trivial questions!).

Thanks for the update Humberto.  We look forward to any additional observations you might have.

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What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
Location: Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico

14 Responses to Why is the Ladybird Beetle walking in circles???

  1. J says:

    I found a ladybug acting the same way on the floor in our house. It is overwintering in our home – must have crawled in through a crack somewhere. All it does is walk around in circles – it can only turn left. No missing limbs or antennae from what I can tell.

    I wonder if it is because of a neurological disorder, maybe something genetic or perhaps it was damaged somehow by cold or dehydration.

    • H says:

      I found one myself this afternoon. It was on my counter and, like J said, it only turns left. Mine seems to have an injured leg on its left side. The very back one to be exact. I found him/her on its back so I turned it over. I did so as carfeully as I possibly could, so I dont think I was the reason for the injury. I dont know if that has anything to do with the circles, but I thought i’d let you guys know what I have experienced.

  2. crack says:

    I found an earwig doing that on the walk out back.
    Two days it walked in circles till it got “moved”by traffic.

  3. Cj says:

    Hi my brother found a lady bug in third pperiod today, We have done a lot of research on lady bugs, our ladybug is acting the same way. We named it Theda, as far as I am aware it has just been born recently it’s about 3 days old. we have made it a grassy home on paper with rock twigs and its food farm we givew it water twice a day, we do’nt give it access to water because Theada will drown it’s normal behavior.

  4. Douglas Dodds says:

    We’ve just observed a ladybird doing exactly the same in our bathroom in southern England. It did seem to have some fine fluff on its leg and antennae – from a spiders web, perhaps? We managed to remove the web but it didn’t have any effect. It always turns left, and is still doing it now!

  5. Shauna Parsons says:

    I have stink bugs in my house. Some of them when landing on round objects like my clock or light fixture just keep walking around it. They are able to fly so I don’t understand why they would keep up this insanity. The one on my clock did it for days. This is bazaar.

  6. Ashley Hall says:

    Moths in montana same thing

  7. Umar Hussain says:

    Hey All,

    Saw a thrips specimen on Kenyan basil doing ‘Donuts’ it was going round in circles, couldn’t figure it out. Usually when they detect breathing they run away, however this one just went round and round in circles… I cannot confirm what species of thrips it was.

  8. Alexandra says:

    Hey! I was on this article because I recently viewed this behavior for the first time, I am an insect lover myself and keep them to study all the time. But this is the first time I’ve ever seen this. I picked up this lady and it started to do circles on the top of my finger which is irregular in the first place because typically human interaction would frighten them but it continued to to it so then I set up a nice enclosure and placed It it in there but it continued to do it so then I sprayed some water and that helped, it is now walking normally but I’m still going to keep it in here to monitor it’s behaviors! Thank you for making this comment

  9. Angela says:

    I had a ladybug land on me a few months ago did the same thing walked in a circle on my knee for about an hour. Has anyone found out what is going on?

  10. Angela says:

    Here in Tennessee

  11. Neal Fondren says:

    I have been watching a black beetle walking in 4 inch diameter left hand circles for 30 minutes now. Very strange behavior.
    Alabama woods.

  12. Raeyn says:

    I found a beetle doing the exact same thing. I saw it last night on the sidewalk, but when I went outside this morning it was still in the same spot walking in circles. Occasionally I’ll see it stop walking and start twitching for a few seconds.

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