Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Invasion

If it is true that a Ladybird in your house is a sign of good luck, then I am the luckiest person in the world.

"Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home.

Your house is on fire and your children are gone.

All except one, and that's Little Anne.

For she has crept under the warming pan."

Each Fall we are invaded by all manner of flying things. Some delightful and benign like the Ladybird, some pesky like the household fly, and some downright aggravating like wasps. Each afternoon I must tour the house trying in vain to rid us of the pesky and aggravating to no avail. They simply keep coming in day after day. But the Ladybird is welcome, and they come and overwinter inside the house in large numbers. They venture in from the south side of the house and find a cozy spot sunbathing on the window panes, or nestle in the folds of the linen curtains. Part of the genus Coccinella, Ladybirds come in all shades of yellow, orange, and red. There are almost as many polka dot combinations as there are Ladybirds in our house. Some 450 different species exist here in North America alone and they are one of the superheros of the insect world. Eating all types of aphids, scale insects, mealy bugs, and mites they are a definite good source of luck in the garden. Their bright colors are part of a phenomenon called aposematism wherein predators are reluctant to eat them because of prior association with color pattern and dangerous toxins. While I don't think this phenomenon was made part of their DNA makeup to ward off felines, the cats in our house leave them alone. When Spring arrives and the Ladybirds venture forth outdoors and into the gardens I miss stumbling upon their bright shells. When beloved artist Charley Harper passed away last summer, we added one of his wonderful Ladybird pictures to our collection of Harper prints that line our stairwell leading to the upper floors. So when I miss the Ladybirds I look at Charley's picture- and when I see the Ladybirds, I think of Charley. Both add immeasurable color and joy to our world.

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