Not having a garden, it had never occurred to me that you can buy live ladybirds and get them posted to you!
Around £16 for 25 native British adult ladybirds with food included in case you’re interested. Ready for immediate release to the garden to ward off all those pesky aphids attacking your prize roses.
Fly away home
Every spring, as the temperatures start to rise, a whole tribe of ladybirds decides to crawl out of the crevices around the windows in my flat which have offered them shelter and warmth over the winter months.
Now I love ladybirds and have done ever since I was a little girl. Who doesn’t love a ladybird, let’s face it! But I’ve always felt a special affinity, perhaps because of the old nursery rhyme where “little Ann… has crept under the warming pan” while the house is on fire and Mama Ladybird is being exhorted to fly home.
Or because, on squealing with delight at finding one, I would excitedly count the number of spots to see if it was the same age as me. An old wives’ tale which turns out to be nonsense by the way Dad! But then I think you knew that…
Nevertheless I still feel a slight sense of unease when rather a lot of the tiny bestioles start to share my living space every year. I should count myself lucky really as, at their preferred hibernation sites, ladybirds can number up to 1000, whereas I probably only ever get 10 or so at most.
Maybe it’s a deep-seated fear that I’ll accidentally hoover one up, and a hail of bad luck will then rain down on me. Or maybe it’s because I’ve started looking at them in a different light since I learnt that the yellow gunk (for want of a better word) that ladybirds excrete is actually blood and that this “reflex bleeding” is a defence mechanism. I so want to make a period joke at this point!
You say doodlebug, I say ladybug..
As befits one of the beetle world’s most striking characters, there are tales and superstitions galore featuring these plucky little ladycows (if you’re a Yorkie).
Even today, if a ladyclock (if you’re Charlotte Bronte) lands on me I make a quick wish before it flies away. The more vivid the red on its back, the better my luck will be. And if it lands on my hand I will be married within the year. Allegedly.
Counting the spots may well reveal all kinds of predictions, from how many happy months you will have to how much money you are about to come into to how many children you will have.
A farmer’s best friend, doodlebugs (if you’re from North America) have an inner fire alarm system and will fly away from a place if it starts burning. In Britain once upon a time, farmers would recite the Ladybird, Ladybird rhyme as a kind of mantra to save these plant-protecting creatures before setting fire to their stubble.
The song may date back as far as the 16th century when, in despair, at a plague of insects destroying their crops, Catholic farmers in Europe prayed to the Virgin Mary to help them. The subsequent visitation of ladybirds led to them being christened the Beetles of Our Lady, or ladybeetles; the red of their wings symbolising the Virgin’s cloak, their black dots her joys and sorrows.
But it’s the Italians who have the best ladybird beliefs. If one flies into your bedroom, it’s very definitely your lucky day. They also consider them to be auspicious when it comes to babies, so much so that they charmingly call them commaruccia or little midwives.
So the next time you see a ladybird, dip your head in respect that such a humble animal can give birth to such potent myths. Or at the very least check to see if your house is on fire!
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