Pretty as a Lady Bird
July 12, 2007

The trees on Main Street near where we live are fragrant with white blossoms, sticky with sap and full of lady bug larvae munching on aphids.

I have just heard of Lady Bird Johson's death. She advocated the planting of roadside ditches with American wildflowers. These corridors of nectar and pollen are important breeding and foraging grounds for pollinator. Ironically, she was given the nickname "Ladybird" from one of her childhood nannies. Tomorrow I will tell the bees at Van Dusen gardens of her passing. There is a research garden in Texas dedicated to her.

"Ladybird is a name that has been used in England for more than 600 years for the European beetle Coccinella septempunctata. As knowledge about insects increased, the name became extended to all its relatives, members of the beetle family Coccinellidae. Of course these insects are not birds, but butterflies are not flies, nor are dragonflies, stoneflies, mayflies, and fireflies, which all are true common names in folklore, not invented names. The lady for whom they were named was "the Virgin Mary", and common names in other European languages have the same association (the German name Marienkafer translates to "Marybeetle" or ladybeetle). Prose and poetry mention ladybird, perhaps the most familiar in English being the children's rhyme:

Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home,
Your house is on fire, your children all gone...

In the USA, the name ladybird was popularly Americanized to ladybug, although these insects are beetles (Coleoptera), not bugs (Hemiptera).

--from the University of Institute Florida and Agricultural Services web site

(The reference to fire refers to the English tradition of burning off the fallow of the fall crops after they have been harvested.)