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"Ladybird, ladybird fly away home,
Your house is on fire and your children are gone,
All except one, and her name is Ann,
And she hid under the baking pan."
This rhyme has been dutifully recited for generations of children to encourage an errant ladybug to fly away after mistakenly landing on one's person. Going by a variety of names including Ladybird, Ladybug, Ladycow, Dowdy-cow, Barnabee, Burnabee, the Bishop-that-burneth, Bishy Bishy Barnabee, and even Doodlebug, the Ladybug is not actually classified as a bug, but as a beetle, and comes in a variety of colors from gray to brown to red, yellow, and orange! Ladybugs can have anywhere from 0 to 22 spots though the 7 spotted ladybug (Coccinella septempunctata) is the most common ladybug in Europe! Regardless of their number of spots, Ladybugs are generally considered to be lucky insects. In many countries, if a ladybug lands on you, it is believed that you will be granted more patience and fewer burdens. And if you are ill when a ladybug lands on you, the ladybug will take your illness away. Ladybug superstitions also suggest that you count the spots on a ladybug’s back to learn the number of happy months ahead! 🐞
The Ladybug's Latin name of coccinellids is derived from the word for "scarlet", referencing its typical bright red colour.
The name ladybird originated in Britain where the insects became known as "Our Lady's bird" or the Lady beetle referencing the Virgin Mary (Our Lady) who was often depicted wearing a red cloak in early paintings, and the spots of the seven-spot ladybird were said to symbolise her seven joys and seven sorrows.
The children's rhyme has many regional variations such as an 1842 Yorkshire version:
"Ladycow, Ladycow, ply thy way home”
And in Scotland a rhyme from the same period is recorded as:
"Dowdy-cow, dowdy-cow, ride away heame,
Thy house is burnt, and thy bairns are tean."
The name variations on Bishop-Barnaby (from Norfolk and Suffolk dialect) – Barnabee, Burnabee, the Bishop-that-burneth, and bishy bishy barnabee may be related to St. Barnabas' feast in June, when the insect generally appears.
Ladybirds have served as the US state insects of Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, and Tennessee, though only New York has selected a species native to the United States (Coccinella novemnotata).
For more Celtic bug lore, click the ladybug!