Nature at Arm's Length / Nina Miller
Published 11:27 am, Sunday, August 24, 2014
Did I say "badylugs?" Excuse me. I meant ladybugs. You know, those summertime insects that fly around gardens and fields along with flagondries and flutterbys?
What is black and white and red all over? Why, ladybugs, of course! Of the more than 5,000 species of ladybugs, about 400 live in North America. The most familiar coloration is the red with black spots and white patches on either side of its head, but shades of pink, yellow, orange, gray and even blue colors can be seen on these beetles.
How is the ladybug like a turtle? When dormant or at rest, the ladybug can retract its head and legs into its body, making it appear more round than when it is active and all parts are extended.
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Why the name ladybug? Hundreds of years ago, as they witnessed their crops being decimated by pests, farmers began praying to the Virgin Mary for a remedy. After the ladybug came along and wiped out the invading insects, the grateful farmers named them the "Beetle of our Lady" which turned into lady beetle or ladybug beetle. One ladybug can consume up to 5,000 insects in its lifetime.
Where do ladybugs go in the winter? When the weather turns cold, ladybugs look for a warm, secluded place to hibernate such as under a rotten log, behind tree bark, beneath a rock or even inside your house! These hibernacula may contain thousands of ladybugs taking advantage of collective warmth.
When is a ladybug like an airplane? According to a recent report by Charles Osgood in his "Osgood File," heard on WCBS radio back in March, research has shown that some ladybug beetles can flap their wings 85 times per second, allowing them to fly at speeds of up to 37 mph and as high as 3,600 feet. Some were recorded as having made a 74-mile trip in only two hours!
Who wrote the "ladybug, fly away home" poem? After farmers realized the value of ladybugs in reducing the number of pests in their fields, it became traditional for them to sing out this rhyme before they burnt their fields following the harvest, giving the tiny beetles time to leave:
Fly away home.
Your house is on fire
And your children are gone.
All except one
And that's little Ann
For she crept under
The frying pan!
Nina Miller is a Darien resident.