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Many cultures view ladybugs as lucky, and a great deal of superstition surrounds these small and stylishly outfitted insects. As often happens with superstition, it is actually a bit difficult to determine why ladybugs came to be viewed as lucky. One interesting thing about ladybug superstitions is that these superstitions are so universal: usually, superstitions about living things are quite varied, with different cultures attaching different meanings to everything ranging from black cats to mirrors.
The most likely explanation for the general view that ladybugs are lucky is their dietary habits. Ladybugs eat harmful crop pests, so the appearance of ladybugs would have been welcomed by farmers and gardeners. In agricultural societies, it would have made sense to venerate a beneficial insect, encouraging people to leave ladybugs alone so that they could consume pests such as aphids. The appearance of a ladybug would also have been viewed as a blessing, which explains the positive associations with ladybugs in many cultures.
One of the most common superstitions about ladybugs is the idea that killing a ladybug will bring down bad luck. This would support the idea that ladybug superstitions evolved as a form of protection for the ladybug population, ensuring that the insects could travel unmolested. Many cultures also link the sight of a ladybug with future luck in love, good weather, a financial windfall, or the granting of wishes. Having a ladybug land on you is supposedly to be particularly lucky in some cultures, and some people believe that when a ladybug lands on an object, that object will be replaced by a new and improved version.
In some Christian societies, especially in Europe, the ladybug is linked with the Virgin Mary, also known as Our Lady to devout Catholics. According to legend, the spots on the ladybug's back symbolize the Seven Sorrows of Mary, and ladybugs were sent by the Virgin to protect crops. This explains the origins of the name “ladybug.” Ladybugs are also known as “lady beetles,” or “ladybirds,” other references to the Virgin. Many other animals and plants are associated with the Virgin Mary, so she must be a busy lady!
The well-known children's rhyme which begins “ladybug, ladybug, fly away home, your house is on fire and your children are alone” is said to have evolved from the practice of burning crops at the end of the season. Supposedly, farmers would sing to warn the ladybugs to fly away, leaving harmful insect pests behind to be burned in the flames.