In early June 2019, a buzzworthy headline about an anomalous ladybug swarm swept through the news cycle. According to the story, National Weather Service radar detected a massive bloom originating out of the Mojave Desert before heading south over Southern California. The story went viral on social media before generating headlines around the world in major news outlets. Despite the plethora of coverage, it seems there was actually scant evidence that the ladybug swarm even existed at all. In fact, based on our investigation, the ladybug swarm seems to have been entirely a figment of the media’s creation, based on a single Tweet, which itself was based on a single volunteer weather observer's report of seeing "specks" in the air. When all of the facts of the case are examined closely, the "ladybug swarm" actually appears to likely have been the result of military testing and training in the area, not a super swarm of bugs.
Here's what happened: On June 4, 2019, at roughly 3:35 PM local time in California, a strange bloom began appearing on weather radar across a large swath of the southern part of the state before drifting for hours into the night. The National Weather Service (NWS) office in San Diego reported the bloom on Twitter, and posted an animated image that clearly showed a linear radar bloom heading southward from an area just north of the city of Barstow, before expanding into a more amorphous cloud shape. Also accompanying the NWS’s tweet was the caption “The large echo showing up on SoCal radar this evening is not precipitation, but actually a cloud of ladybugs termed a 'bloom.'" Within hours, news outlets across the world began running headlines about the alleged ladybug swarm.