Friday Essay – I Don’t Like Ladybugs

North American nine-spotted ladybug

North American nine-spotted ladybug

I do not like ladybugs.  I do not have a phobia – I am not so irrationally terrified of the insects that the sight of one is debilitating. I just don’t like them. Although when my daughter was about three she filled a little bucket with sand then proceeded to collect the most astonishing amount of ladybugs in the bucket.  I admit I jumped back a bit at the sight of quite that many ladybugs.  And, I became just slightly distressed when she took a few from the bucket and tried to put them in my pants pocket.  The main thing is this … I have a grudge against ladybugs. The following story may seem fantastical and, believe me, I have had many friends tell me I was imagining the incident or what occurred was not caused by a ladybug.  Well, they can stuff it!  This is a true story. I will preface this tale by saying that I am not afraid of insects and creepy crawly things. As a child I was quite enamoured with the tiny beasties.  I would go to the back of our yard and turn over rocks to watch the pill bugs do their thing. I don’t know a lot about these guys except that they are little bugs that roll up into pills when disturbed.  I also had an imaginary friend named Donald – a spider who lived in our furnace.  I was quite sad to say goodbye to Donald when we moved.  So, as a child I was not bothered by insects and, in fact, I think I spent a lot of time holding and inspecting and learning about them.  The incident in question happened on a nice summer day when I was about four; the summer of 1976.  I was watching a ladybug on my hand.  I’m not certain if she landed on me or if I picked her up from somewhere, but there she was on my hand.  I don’t recall doing anything particularly annoying to this creature but she proceeded to pee on me – at least release some kind of yellow liquid – and bite me.  This is the part no one believes.  People seem to believe that ladybugs are sweet and gentle creatures, therefore such a dear thing could not possibly have bitten me.  I’m not certain where this myth came from.  These beetles are, for the most part, carnivorous.  Both the nine-spotted ladybug – native to North America – and the seven-spotted ladybug – the more prevalent and introduced European species – eat other insects.  They have been introduced in many gardens to eat aphids and other pests. Clearly ladybugs are capable of biting since they are the tiny sharks of the insect world. I have been doing a bit of research into ladybugs, nothing too deep, I read a bunch of Wikipedia pages. (Wikipedia is quite respectable so I’m sure this is fine.)  In doing this bit of research I discovered something quite interesting about ladybugs in the summer of 1976:  “After an abnormally long period of hot, dry weather in the summer of 1976 in the UK, a marked increase in the aphid population was followed by a “plague” of ladybirds, with many reports of people being bitten as the supply of aphids dwindled.” (this is found on the Wikipedia page about Coccinellidae, link above) So there!  Ladybugs do bite and in 1976 they had a particularly bad summer.  Granted, I was living in southern Ontario in Canada in the summer of 1976 but that doesn’t negate the fact that should their supply of insect flesh dwindle ladybugs will try to eat people.  And, the weather was relatively weird all over the world in 1976 and 1977 – severe drought in Europe the summer  of 1976 and one of the worst blizzards of the century in southern Ontario, Ohio and New York state in January and February 1977.  

So, I have learned a bit more about ladybugs and historical weather patterns.  I feel vindicated.  I hope you do, too.

Be Lovely to Each Other,