“Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home
Your house is on fire and your children are gone
All except one, and that’s Little Anne
For she has crept under the warming pan.”
Here in the plush but not excessively pretentious Curmudgeon diggs, I, being the owner, boss, and the “Crusty” one himself, have the largest corner office with huge picture windows looking out over Puget Sound, and in my office is a house plant—or office plant as the case may be. (OK, so there’s no corner office, no big windows, and no Puget Sound…but there IS a plant.) And on this plant there was a bug. A ladybug to be exact.
We have learned from the time we are young not to fear the ladybug. In fact, we believe the ladybug is good luck. But why? As regular readers of this column know (all one of you—hi Mom!), there are no limits to what I will do, no lengths to which I will not go, no mountains I…blah, blah, blah… to find an answer when I get a bug up my ass (so to speak.) So I put a member of my staff on it and got another cup of coffee and poured a double-shot of Irish from my well-stocked office bar, in an office which, if you recall, doesn’t exist.
This is what they found: While in North America we call them ladybugs, in Britain, Australia, and South Africa they are called ladybirds; and in other parts of the world they are alternately called ladyclock, ladyfly, and ladycow (try calling your wife “ladycow” the next time you have an argument). There are over 5,000 species with more than 450 native to North America alone. And most of them aren’t the pretty colors we trust, but black, gray, or brown.
Yea, But Are They Beneficial?
Yep. Well, usually. They feed on aphids or scale insects, troublesome pests in gardens, orchards, agricultural fields, and office plants, even when the office doesn’t actually exist. For example, the Mall of America, that mammoth monument to conspicuous consumption, releases thousand of the little buggers into its indoor park to prey on pests (and I don’t think they mean the bugs prey on bratty kids).
Yea, But Are They Good Luck?
Who knows, but many think so. Some believe that seeing one or having one land on their body is good luck or, in Northern Europe for instance, that your wish will be granted. In America, children make a wish, and then “blow it away” back home to make the wish come true. In central Europe, a ladybird crawling across a girl’s hand means she will get married within a year. In Russia, a nursery rhyme tells ladybugs to fly and bring back bread, and in Denmark, the ladybug flies away and brings back good weather. In Italy, some believe that if one flies into your bedroom it’s good luck (I think it’s good luck if anything flies into my bedroom.) Many cultures actually call them luckybugs. Conversely, squashing one brings bad luck.
So What’s the Bad News, Crusty?
Well, kids, you know what happens when man screws with nature. When some species of ladybugs have been introduced as control agents, they can outperform the native species and become pests themselves. Fancy that. Really? We messed something up? You mean just like kudzu in the South, and wild boars in Hawaii, and children in…(oh wait…that’s something else)? In North America the multicolored Asian lady beetle, introduced to control aphids in crops, has become a serious household pest in some areas and they are acquiring the same bad rep in Europe.
So what’s the moral? Fug if I know. But I know this. Blow on all the ladybugs you want, but don’t screw with mother nature. She’ll put a bug up your ass.