Every morning for the past several weeks, I search my kitchen for signs of life . . . specifically, a small round body painted red with black polka dots, powered by little bent-stick legs. This adorable creature has captivated my attention, and although I’ve noticed ladybugs in the house before, I’ve never met one like Mary.
I named her Mary since ladybugs have a bit of a Divine history. In medieval Europe, people believed the ladybugs were sent from heaven to protect crops. They called them the “Bugs of Our Lady,” a reference to the Virgin Mary. The charming little beetles didn’t consume locust hordes, but did short work of smaller, softer-bodied pests. Thus, their provenance is both celestial and heroic.
This ladybug survived falling into the sink and nearly being swept down the drain and being scooped up in a paper towel while traversing the wood floor next to a dropped blueberry. Mary then nonchalantly climbed out of the wastebasket and hurriedly scaled the front of the counter. My cat accidentally stepped on her once, but I laid out the tiny body on a Kleenex, waiting for signs of life. One black wing was askew and there was no movement for a minute or two, then just as I was about to conduct a burial-at-sea, the intrepid little insect shuddered, took a few wobbly steps, shuddered again to straighten the drooping wing, then marched off.
Admittedly, I have more time at home nowadays to watch out the back windows for birds, squirrels, chipmunks, deer, red fox and several black bear appearances. Mary has made the kitchen her realm, which means I do even more than the usual sanitizing of everything. She once captured my attention by appearing in one of the “frost paintings” created on the windows during the coldest winter days. I took daily note of these, especially with Mary traversing the window – a bit of live action against the imaginary scenes.
Mary once began scaling my coffeepot, decided three-quarters of the way up not to continue, and began backing down. She lost her footing and fell into my coffee cup. Luckily, I was there to snatch her out, and set her on the window ledge to dry. I also caught her dangling by one leg off the paper towel holder, a sixteen-inch drop to the counter. I moved in to provide a safety net, but after swaying back and forth a few more seconds, she righted her round little body and off she went . . . just grandstanding.
Mary always returns to the kitchen windows. I wonder if she’s trying to find the way outside, or just seeking the sun’s warmth. She sprints to the top on her little legs, then hibernates for hours, either exhausted or just plain happy.
I read up a little about ladybugs. One blog advised that they make adorable pets, housed in a terrarium with a shallow water dish and fed damp raisins, or aphids, their food-of-choice. The blogger noted that observing the “miracle of life” when the larvae appear is a wonderful science project for children. I decided against that because I have neither a terrarium, raisins damp or otherwise, and definitely don’t have aphids.
Recently, I noticed a second ladybug, smaller than Mary and much slower. This newcomer plods along the wood sides of the windows, never venturing onto the glass. I haven’t spotted them together, and they seem oblivious to each other’s presence. I’m thinking the little drudge is just not her type. So, I guess we won’t be expecting any baby ladybugs this spring.