Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home…
As I was thinking about this post about ladybugs, a nursery rhyme I learned as a child kept popping into my head: Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home…
I couldn’t remember if there was more. So, I googled it.
There is more, and as is often the case with old nursery rhymes, the rest is rather dark.
British version (where they’re called ladybirds):
Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home!https://wordsforlife.org.uk/activities/ladybird-nursery-rhyme/
Your house is on fire, your children all gone,
All but one, and her name is Ann,
And she crept under the pudding pan.
Fly away home.
Your house is on fire.
And your children all gone.
All except one,https://www.dltk-teach.com/rhymes/ladybug/index.htm
And that’s little Ann,
For she crept under
The frying pan.
According to Wikipedia there are other versions of the child’s name and what she hid under to survive, but otherwise the rhyme is the same.
One website said the line “Your house is on fire” likely referred to farmers burning their fields in autumn, the beetles losing their natural habitat.
This all reminds me of the shock I had in college when I learned the meaning behind another nursery rhyme I learned as a child:
Ring-a-round the rosie,
A pocket full of posies,
We all fall down.
Turns out that little ditty likely refers to the 17th century’s bubonic plague in England and the red rashes on the skin of sufferers. Posies were an herbal remedy that helped mask the stench of the disease.
I remember as small children we held hands and pranced in a circle, chanting that rhyme, falling to the ground as quickly as possible after the last line, the last one to hit the ground the loser. Which is ironic, as in real life, they’d be considered the winner, living longer.
Is it any wonder so many of us are screwed up emotionally, growing up with these ghoulish nursery rhymes?
Back to ladybugs.
Coccinellidae (/ˌkɒksɪˈnɛlɪˌdiː/) is a widespread family of small beetles ranging in size from 0.8 to 18 mm (1⁄32–23⁄32 in). The family is commonly known as ladybugs in North America and ladybirds in Great Britain and other parts of the English-speaking world. Entomologists prefer the names ladybird beetles or lady beetles as these insects are not classified as true bugs.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coccinellidae
Many years ago, on an overnight camping trip with friends in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state, I learned something startling (to me, anyway) about ladybugs and their life cycle, including hibernation. I wrote about it here, with photos of the terrain.
Trust me, they’re fascinating insects, worth knowing about.
Here’s the reason ladybugs have been on my mind lately: they’ve been invading my house!
For much of September I saw them on my home’s exterior. I watched Black-capped Chickadees eye them from my deck’s railing before flying right up to my window screens and house siding to pick them off, along with other insects. Fascinating.
Many days I’d find a few ladybugs inside my house – climbing the windows or flying toward them. Open a door and in they flew. Turns out they’re not shy, either, landing on me or the dogs (much to their annoyance).
Whenever possible, when found inside I turned the laydbugs on their backs (they’re really hard to pick up, otherwise), cradled them in my hand, and escorted them outside, tossing them into the air and watching their wings expand from under their red shells to fly away… probably landing on my house’s exterior, again. At least I tried.
One afternoon, near sunset, as I noticed the beautiful fall colors of leaves on Red Osier Dogwoods trying to invade my yard through the fence, I grabbed my phone to take photos. Getting up close I noticed… ladybugs! Lots of them. Do the dogwood leaves provide camouflage from predators? Was this a safe place for them to spend the night? Such intriguing insects, these ladybugs.
Last night, I removed a ladybug from my hand as I typed at my computer. I felt a tickle, looked down and saw her crawling across the back of my hand. I gently moved her to a nearby windowsill. Thirty minutes later, she was back on my hand. Admiring her persistence, I got up and escorted her outside.
In doing so, I thought, This is exactly what I need to do with the people and concerns that are weighing me down. Escort them outside and toss the into the air. Let them go.
Being highly sensitive, I often give away too much of my time, power, and energy to others. I want to please. I want to get along. I put my needs last. The others, they’re simply being who they are. It’s my reaction to them – something they said, or did, or didn’t say or do – that is my issue. Only I can control my reaction, though. I need to remind myself of that, constantly. No more waiting for a response. No expecting them to… do something. No hoping for outcomes I want but can’t engineer. No. Better to be pleasantly surprised than easily disappointed.
So, as with the ladybugs in my house, I must work at setting my expectations and hopes free, tossing them into the ether where they will no longer disrupt my sleep or steal my joy.
But wait! Doing more research about ladybugs, my metaphor breaks down. Or, maybe, expands, teaches me something new.
It turns out we should let the ladybugs who find their way into our homes stay. We should welcome them. They provide a service.
Then fall arrives and the ladybugs need to find warmth, which is most available inside people’s homes – where they often descend in large numbers. Suddenly they’re not as cute to many people as they seemed outdoors. But Jessica Ware, an insect expert and assistant professor of biology at Rutgers University-Newark, said having ladybugs indoors serves a very useful purpose, and humans should welcome their temporary house guests.
“They’re actually great to have around,” Ware said, “because they’re most often predatory and they eat the insects we consider to be pests — especially aphids, soft-bodied insects that feed on vegetation. If you have aphids on any of your houseplants, and you have ladybugs in your house, you’ll no longer have aphids and your plants will be fine. Do not kill them. Do not spray them — because if you do, then you’re destroying some of the natural predators that keep pests in check.”
Because ladybird beetles (which Ware pointed out is the insects’ actual name) gather in big group s— mutually attracted by each other’s pheromones — they’ll often enter just one home in a neighborhood and skip the others. Ware says there is no good way of predicting which house they will want — except that they tend to like their environment moist and warm — much as we humans do.
As for their bright red or orange color with spots:
“Birds that have tried to eat monarch butterflies, for example, don’t forget how foul tasting and vomit-inducing the monarchs are, and learn to avoid them,” Ware said. “Many predators learn to avoid anything with bright so-called “warning” coloration — including the ladybird beetle, which has this kind of coloration and also is foul tasting.”https://www.mycentraljersey.com/story/news/local/new-jersey/2014/12/01/welcome-ladybugs-home/19745179/
Okay. From now on, I’ll let any ladybugs who find their way inside my house stay. We’ll coexist. That should be easy, as they’ll be snoozing, hibernating.
And maybe that’s the bigger lesson I needed to learn: in addition to controlling my reactions to others, tossing them into the air so that their actions (or inaction) don’t cause me pain, I can also extend them some grace, the space they need to go on being who they are while I coexist with them. Because, you know, it’s almost always not about them. It’s about me, and my reaction to them. Who knows what’s going on in their lives, what burdens they carry?
The ladybugs have taught me this lesson: My response to others needs to be an acknowledgement that we’re all entitled to space to be who we are, doing what we do, without judgment, expectations, or assumptions.