80-Mile-Wide Ladybug Swarm Shows up on National Weather Service

By Tiffany Meier

A mass of ladybugs in California was so large it showed up on the National Weather Service’s (NWS) weather radar as an 80-mile-wide blob, according to officials.

“The large echo showing up on SoCal radar this evening is not precipitation, but actually a cloud of lady bugs termed a ‘bloom,'” the NWS office in San Diego, Calif., wrote on Twitter on Tuesday, June 4.

While at first glance, the radar reading might appear as a cloud, Casey Oswant—a weather service meteorologist in the San Diego office—told the Desert Sun that the weather that day could not have created the radar readings.

“If you look at the satellite for that area, there weren’t a lot of clouds,” Oswant told the publication.

“This radar return was much larger than what those clouds could’ve been producing,” she added.

Another weather service meteorologist, Mark Moede, told the Desert Sun the agency credited the weather radar readings to the ladybugs after a weather spotter reported high numbers of the insects in the area.

“Our weather spotter said that this happens often,” Moede told the publication. “He said there were ladybugs everywhere.”

However, according to another meteorologist with NWS San Diego, Joe Dandrea, the ladybug bloom isn’t in a concentrated mass. He told the Los Angeles Times that he contacted a spotter near where the ladybugs were seen.

“I don’t think they’re dense like a cloud,” Dandrea said. “The observer there said you could see little specks flying by.”

Dandrea added that while the ladybug swarm appeared to be about 80 miles by 80 miles, in reality they’re spread out—about 5,000 and 9,000 feet above ground.

Additionally, he said “the most concentrated mass” would be around 10 miles wide.

However, one expert was skeptical about the ladybug swarm appearing on a radar map.

James Cornett, senior scientist at James W. Cornett Ecological Consultants, told the Desert Sun that the number of ladybugs needed to create such a swarm on the radar equipment would have darkened the skies.

“There would have been unbelievable numbers of telephone calls to the police,” Cornett said. “It merits some investigation.”

Cornett said that while “ladybugs do gather in large numbers during the winter and the fall,” it is very out of character for them to move south this time of year.

A Harlequin Ladybird takes flight
A Harlequin Ladybird takes flight in London, England, on Nov. 3, 2016. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Cornett added that if the ladybugs did move, they’d be moving north in search of food. He added that when ladybugs do fly in groups, “we’re talking about thousands of individuals not tens of millions.

Additionally, Cornett said that ladybugs are too heavy to be able to fly high enough to register on a radar.

However, according to the UC Integrated Pest Management Program, ladybugs migrate to higher elevations when they run out of small insects known as aphids to eat in the early summer months.

Despite what different critics may say, people took to social media with their own theories for the ladybug swarm.

Several people commented that the ladybugs were on their way “to the ladybug picnic” from an episode of “Sesame Street.”

Some people were just happy the swarm of insects wasn’t a cloud of locusts.

Another person wondered if there was “any correlation to the earthquakes” that same day.