This morning walking to Morning Prayer, I noticed two of these lovelies on my surplice. Then at mass, I noticed one on my prie dieu. While not technically a bug, Ladybugs have always been my favorite...bug. The internet is full of stories of why coccinellids are called Ladybugs or Ladybirds, but there is agreement they are named in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The prevailing legend is of farmers who asked the Virgin Mary's intercession during an invasion of pests on their crops. Their prayers were answered in the coming of ladybugs who ate the pests and thus saved the harvest.
The other reason is associated with one specific species in the genus: the Coccinella septempunctata, or seven-spotted lady bug. Christians took a creature that was already associated with the Virgin Mary due to legend and color (coccinellids comes from the Latin word coccineus meaning "scarlet" and the Virgin Mary is often depicted in a scarlet robe) and compared the seven spots on the beetle to the Seven Wounds in the heart of the Virgin Mary, or Our Lady of Seven Sorrows.
At the Presentation of Our Lord, the prophet Simeon told the Virgin Mary that "a sword will pierce your own soul also" (Luke 2.35). The "swords" that rose in devotion to Mary are
- Simeon's Prophecy (Luke 2.34-25)
- The escape and flight into Egypt (Matthew 2.13)
- Losing Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2.43-45)
- Meeting Jesus on the way to the cross
- The Crucifixion (John 19.25)
- The piercing of Jesus's side and his descent from the cross (Matthew 27.57-59)
- The burial of Jesus (John 19.40-42)
I gently brushed the Ladybug off the prie dieu and s/he fell next to me as I knelt for the canon of the mass. Kneeling next to a reminder of Our Lady seemed appropriate during that moment and I thought of the words of her Son of the cross: Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother.