Wednesday, 6 July 2022

Well Spotted!

 My post about the ladybird on Sunday generated some interesting comments. Bushlady reminded me that across The Pond, they are ladybugs and Marit in Norway said they are marihøne. Further investigation revealed that in Germany they are marienkäfer. These last two -roughly translated Mary's hen and Mary's beetle show the medieval link with the Virgin Mary, often referred to as our Lady. But where did this link with the Mother of Jesus start? 
One idea is that the markings of the seven-spot ladybirds [very common in the UK and Europe] were signs of the "Seven Sorrows and Seven Joys" of Mary

By the medieval period in the West (from 10thC), there was a renewed interest in influences from Byzantine art. And this led to the use of blue lapis lazuli for Mary’s clothing, especially her mantle. At the same time, red also became associated with Mary, For example, almost all of the artwork of Mary by Raphael (one of the most notable artists in the 16th century, depicts her clothed in red, with a blue mantle - see left.)  And the 15th century master, Leonardo da Vinci, also often painted Mary in a red robe and blue mantle.
Then I discovered that in Sweden the creature is called Jungfru Marias Nycltelpiga, meaning 'the Lady Mary's keybearer,' and this relates to a children's story that the Virgin lost the keys of heaven, and that all the animals helped her to look for them. They were found by the ladybird, to whose care they are now entrusted. All quite fascinating! 
Ladybird, ladybird fly away home
Your house is on fire and your children are gone
All but the youngest and her name is Anne
And she has crept under the frying pan

I'm sure many of you learned a version of that rhyme as children - there are many variations [different pans, and in the north of England, it is occasionally not Anne, but John] As in Arthur Rackham's charming illustration, if a ladybird flew onto my hand,I would say the rhyme then gently blow the insect away as my grandmother taught me. [She was a Nonconformist, so no stories from her about the BVM though]
As E. commented, ladybirds are very useful - and one can consume 5000 aphids in a lifetime. I love this chart from BBC Wildlife showing all the different sorts of ladybirds we may find in Britain - not just the trad seven spot scarlet beauty.



Definitely looking again at the ladybirds now


19 comments:

  1. Had no idea there were so many different Ladybirds!
    Was there once a 'plague' of Ladybirds in the 70's? where they blew in from the continent?or am dreaming it

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    1. 1976, you didn't dream it!!

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    2. Funnily enough I was only watching a programme about the 1976 heatwave, water shortages and clouds of ladybirds that on the tv last night!! There were so many of them because aphid numbers were at an all time high due to the weather conditions and that is their main food source. Nature has a wonderful way of balancing things out.

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  2. Fascinating, I didn’t realise we had so many different types of ladybirds. I haven’t seen many in the garden recently and unfortunately we do have greenfly!

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    1. I hope the sunshine brings them to your garden soon

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  3. Who knew there were so many different ladybirds?!

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  4. That's a lot of differently spotted and colored ladybirds/bugs!

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    1. These are just the UK ones - you probably have some others in the USA

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  5. Very interesting, Angela! Yes, we call them ladybugs here in the US unless you have a British granddaughter! When my granddaughter was much younger her Grandma that hails from the UK sent her a book about Ladybirds — and we call them ladybirds! And ladybugs! Here fireflies are called lightening bugs, how about there? They are almost extinct here unfortunately. But ladybirds are still with us!

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    1. We only have one native firefly- aka the glow-worm - and sadly they are on the decline.

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    2. I don’t know why this entered me as “anonymous” — it is me, Melissa, Boyett-Brinkley! I don’t like being anonymous!

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    3. Hi Melissa - Blogger keeps doing this to people! Thank you for your comment. Grandchildren do like us to be accurate with animal names, don't they?

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  6. I love the association with the BVM. There are so many flowers and plants associated with her, too. We have to be careful that lady"bugs" don't get into places where they shouldn't be, so we have, for example, some fine wire netting over the external outlet where the furnace oil is replenished when the tanker arrives.

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    1. Flowers of the BVM probably deserve a blogpost all their own

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    2. I have a lovely little book called "Bring Flowers of the Fairest" (a hymn for the Queen of the May), written by Lauretta M. Santarossa and published in Canada by Novalis. It combines history and gardening.

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    3. That sounds interesting

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  7. I love ladybirds, and seeing one on our roses has stopped me dousing the rose with washing up liquid and water - it would reduce the aphids, but I couldn't bear to hurt the ladybird. Thank you for sharing.

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