This lady blog is about one enchanted night spent with my spouse up on the Sandia Crest, overlooking the twinkly lights of Albuquerque, NM. Before your mind races to Camelot and other places…Think ladybugs.
My partner’s birthday wish was that we sleep on the mountain top. We hiked in under the starless mantle of a very dark night, escaping the stifling, smoky heat of the city. We set up our tent in a ring of pine trees, near an old camp fire circle. After we were settled, we walked to the very edge of the ancient, lichen covered granite before sleep claimed us.
The wind was howling and fierce along the edge, cleansing us of any residual corona virus stress, partisan politics and urban misery. Tucked away on our bed of pine needles the wind sang like a mighty ocean tide. Our weary bodies and treacherously overworked minds and hearts were lulled to sleep.
I awoke early the next morning. It was first light. Trowel in hand, ready to perform my daily business, I stumbled through the forest. Suddenly, I began to notice in the crevices of tree bark, on fallen branches, in nooks and crannies everywhere, piles and rivers of lady bugs. The trees surrounding us were literally wrapped in ladybugs!
It was as though they had flown in as a cloud and fallen on the forest like a quilt. Their hallmark red-ochre color accented with black heads, alerted me to their presence. They were everywhere.
I ran back to our camp to tell Kenneth. We grabbed the camera and marveled, following their tell tale trail. I found myself humming from the musical, Fiddler on the Roof,
Wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles…
We had no idea we had slept with ladybugs, snugged in and enveloped. It was a very special birthday gift from the insect world.
Back in town, I went hunting. I wanted to find out more about ladybugs. What was their beneficial purpose in the garden. What meaning did they have in the mythical/archetypal world. What was the meaning of this particular fractal of magic we’d just experienced?
Animal Speak (Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, MN, 1996) was my first go to. Ted Andrews invites us to experience nature firsthand, notice it, examine it, orient yourself to creaturely habitats. He writes, “nature speaks to us constantly, through it’s shapes, colors, textures, smells and varied expressions of animal life, it communicates to us about the world and our life. The symbolism of nature will vary according to it’s context, so you must know it’s natural context”. (P. 46)
I wondered about the importance of Ladybugs in our ecosystem. I found out that Ladybugs are considered a beneficial insect because they eat insects known to destroy plants in backyard gardens and agricultural crops. The blood of a ladybug is yellow and has a very strong smell that acts as a repellent, to predators.
From the larvae to the adults, all enjoy a diet of insects that are small and soft bodied. During the pupal stage, a ladybug can eat about 400 medium size aphids. Ladybugs live for about a year, but some can live up to three years. Within a year [one ladybug] will usually devour over 5,000 aphids. Larvae consume about 25 aphids a day. Adult ladybugs consume about 50 aphids a day. Their voracious appetite helps them play a vital role in the management of pests that attack agriculture.https://dengarden.com/gardening/Ladybugs-Facts
I found out that as the temperatures drop, ladybug beetles (the family Coccinellidae) will fly en masse into canyons or assemble in great numbers and go dormant—something called diapause. Perhaps this was the phenomenon we saw.
Historically, the name “ladybird” originated in Britain where the insects became known as “Our Lady’s bird” or the Lady beetle. Mary (Our Lady) was often depicted wearing a red cloak in early paintings, and the seven-spotted ladybird (the most common in Europe) were said to symbolize her seven joys and seven sorrows.
In the human world of myth and culture, beetles have been associated with resurrection and metamorphosis. I perked up. Many spiritual teachers see this time of disruption, pandemic, and institutional failure as the beginning of a new epoch, an initiation for humanity for what must be birthed. The transformation of the cocoon. Animal Speak reminded me that the symbolic message from this most ancient creature, the beetle, might be my metamorphosis, as well as ours. Here’s the insect wisdom of beetle:
Stick together. Rest when you can. Prepare for change. Remember you are in the midst of a metamorphosis. What do you need to shed in order to welcome the new? Change is inevitable and only becomes more difficult when you resist its natural flow.Ted Andrews (Animal Speak, Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, MN, 1996)
If you wish to learn more about ladybugs and beneficial insects, you can visit this wonderful site by the Xerces Society/Bee City USA in partnership with New Mexico State University. They are bug experts and entymologists who are exploring all things bugs this summer.
As a bug geek, I urge you to allow yourself to be drawn into the wonder and mystery of the insect world. Pick one species and learn about it. Apprentice yourself to its fascinating intricacies and oddities. Invite beneficials into your backyard by providing plant habitat. Insects are basic to our ecosystem’s building blocks. We must avoid a bugapocalypse if we are to survive as human species.
Blessed be the ladybugs, bees, butterflies and all things beneficial!