For the past five days, we’ve all been snug as a bug in a rug, haven’t we? It’s been great. Fantastic. The blizzard of 2016 was one for the record books, and I loved every single minute of it. Except for, well, the bugs in the rugs.
I’m not sure if I’m alone out here with this problem, but every winter, our house gets infiltrated by ladybugs. It starts some time in November, lasts until spring and these little ladies get everywhere: behind the bed, on window sills, in light fixtures, in the corners of every room. This morning I woke up and there was one crawling around the lip of my water glass.
It’s not so much that I don’t like ladybugs specifically, I mean their name alone is enough to sprout some affection, but I do take issue with bugs of any kind in my house. And while these don’t bother anything, per se, they do have a bad habit of dying everywhere. It turns out, dead insect husks on my floor is not quite the look I’m going for.
My biggest problem is not so much the bugs themselves as the guilt I feel for resenting their presence. Because who doesn’t love ladybugs? They’re pretty, they don’t bite, they have cool hidden wings that reveal themselves Transformer style, and they’re fun to draw.
Especially when you’re a kid, finding a lady bug is the biggest gift. I’d immediately go into the kitchen and beg my mom for an empty baby food jar so to I could make it a house. My dad would hammer holes in the lid and I’d be in business, decorating the home with a few leaves, a handful of grass, a few twigs to keep things interesting, and then some drops of water to keep everyone hydrated.
Every time, I had complete faith that that bug, which by now I had named Debbie or Vicki, was going to be with me for the long haul. Watch me graduate to a 10-speed. Congratulate me on making valedictorian.
Envisioning all the good times we’d have together, I’d stare at it in the jar, which was so compact and portable I’d bring it everywhere with me — for an hour.
Usually within that span of time, I wouldn’t be able to stand it, so would carefully open the lid and pull out the lady. I’d place her on the web between my thumb and forefinger, where it would promptly “pee” on me, staining my hand yellow-orange and making it stink for the rest of the day.
After that, I wouldn’t be nearly as interested in my new pet and would put its house on a shelf somewhere, from which it would inevitably disappear thanks to my ever-efficient mother.
Looking back on it, I suppose ladybug ownership wasn’t nearly as magical as it seemed. But maybe that’s because I’m overlooking the fact that ladybugs always seemed so exotic . I mean, they were Chinese, weren’t they? And they were actually called lady beetles, which always sounded kind of British. And no two were alike, ranging in color from red to orange to pink and with different numbers of dots on their backs. I remember the first time I saw one with just two dots, one on each side. I was pretty sure it was going to start talking to me. Or at least grant me a wish or something. Its discovery seemed that fateful.
But now, as with so much childhood whimsy, that magic has been scrubbed off by reality and I’m just left with a houseful of bugs either flying pitifully into lamp shades, dying on their backs or dropping dead. There isn’t a whole lot of romance in that. So, to improve my attitude, I’ve collected a few fascinating facts to renew my interest in these housemates, which I’ll share with you now.
- Their “pee” is actually hemolymph (or blood) that they excrete from their knees when threatened. Because it stinks and makes them look sick, it repulses predators.
- They are called ladybugs in deference to the Virgin Mary. According to legend, farmers began praying to Mary when their crops were plagued with pests in the Middle Ages. The farmers started spotting ladybugs in their fields, which ate the pests and the crops were saved. They credited Mary for the rescue and named the critters after her. In Germany, they are called Marienkafer, which means Mary beetles.
- Ladybugs can eat up to 75 aphids a day.
- You can’t tell their age by counting their spots, but their spots do fade with age. A ladybug can live up to three and nine months.
Guess I’ll have these little guys with me a while.