Ladybug, Ladybug

Out of winter hiding and onto the walls and windows of houses, swarms of ladybugs appear each spring. Where do they come from and where have they been all those cold months? Pretty bugs, however a nuisance when you start crunching them on the floor, or they leave spots on clean windows! When warmer weather arrives, open the windows and let them out, or vacuum them up, then empty the bag outside! They love aphids, so place them in your garden or on rose bushes.

Coccinellidae is a family of beetles, known variously as ladybirds (British English, Australian English, South African English), ladybugs (North American English), or lady beetles (preferred by some scientists). The one we see most often in New England is scarlet with small black spots, but there are also yellow and orange bugs with black spots, technically a “Multicolored Asian Ladybird Beetle,” or ladybug. The ladybug is the official state insect of Massachusetts, Delaware, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Tennessee. Found worldwide, there are over 5,000 species described, with more than 450 native to North America alone. In Asia, they congregate in large numbers on white cliffs for the winter hibernation. Lacking white cliffs In the U.S., ladybugs will seek out white, or light colored houses with a southwestern sun exposure. These bugs can squeeze through cracks and crevices, under clapboards and windowsills trying to find warmth. They gather in a group, called an aggregation of ladybugs, so if you see one in your house, you can be sure there are more to follow. Once spring arrives, they wake up and attempt to move outdoors, not all succeed, with many trapped inside, where they do not reproduce.

While not destructive or damaging to a home, they can secrete a strong smelling yellowish liquid from the joints of their legs, a process called reflex bleeding. They use this to discourage predators or at other times when they are stressed. This liquid can also stain light colored surfaces. Large infestations have a distinct odor. However, they are useful bugs, feeding on aphids and scale insects, which are pests in gardens, agricultural fields, and orchards. The Mall of America released thousands of ladybugs into its indoor park as a natural means of pest control for its gardens. Colonies hibernating in your house live off their own body fat, but homes during the winter are generally dry which causes most of the ladybugs to die from dehydration. Occasionally in mid-winter, you might see a ladybug in your bathroom getting a drink of water. Now that is one smart lady!

Some people consider seeing ladybugs, or having them land on one's body to be a sign of good luck to come. When ladybugs arrived en masse, eating aphids and saving crops during the middle ages, the farmers began calling the ladybugs "The Beetles of Our Lady," eventually shortened to "Lady Beetles" or “Lady Bugs.” The red wings represented the Virgin's cloak and the black spots represented her joys and sorrows.

A well-known nursery rhyme relates to Ladybirds, the English version dating to at least 1744. The poem was a warning to ladybugs still crawling on old hop vines about to be set fire to clear the fields for the next planting. The ladybugs’ children (larvae) could get away from the flames, but the pupae, referred to Ann, or Nan in some versions, were fastened to the plants and thus could not escape.

Ladybug, ladybug flyaway home,
Your house is on fire and your children are gone,
All except one,
And her name is Ann,
And she hid under the baking pan

Written by Janice Stiles-Boults


1 comment:

John's Arts & Crafts said...

Great Article! New blog on the Hx. of the Lady Bug :