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Totems: Ladybug

by Cie Simurro, a.k.a. Thunderbird Starwoman

There is a ladybug on my shoulder. I saved her from drowning in my glass of water. After sticking out her bottom flying wings a few times, she lay still. I sent healing. Suddenly, like a scene in "The Day the Earth Stood Still," the hatch began to vibrate. It split down the middle and opened. Instead of Michael Rennie coming out in a spacesuit, it was the ladybug that began to shake and move. When I asked ladybug for a message, she flew onto my finger. Her delicate brown legs and dainty clawed feet explored my flesh, rapidly running back and forth. Fascinated I counted 18 spots. 1+8=9. Nine completes cycles of 3x3. It is also the union of Deity with Human. I got two brief messages from Ladybug, both with tremendous impact: "The power of the diminutive is gigantic. Make peace with those able to overrun the Earth", and "To experience magic in your contemporary self, observe Nature in minute detail." Aho.

Oblivious to the giant supporting her, ladybug began her toilette. I’m willing to bet most people haven’t paid much attention to a ladybug’s toilette. She washed her head and thorax with two front legs, periodically opening her elytra (hardened front wings) and sticking out her back wings. When she got onto my red shirt, she seemed quite comfortable with that. It would be ironic for an insect with such brilliant coloration to be color-blind. Happily, coleopterists, (scientists who study beetles) believe they can see ultraviolet and infrared as well as color, with their compound eyes of 26,000 faceted lenses. Up ladybug will instinctively climb, onto a rose stem, antennae waggling in front. Upon encountering an aphid, she will try to grasp it in her jaws before it gives off a blast of sticky liquid in her face. If that happens, she will stop and scrub her face and antennae right away, because ladybug is first and foremost a hunter. The stickiness would interfere with that. She can eat up to 100 aphids a day. Even if you do not forage and hunt for your own food, in your DNA, you are still a hunter. For what do you now hunt? Fulfillment, peace, happiness? Money, status, respect?

January in New England is very cold. Still, all winter these Asian ladybugs have been intermittently active in my house, during a time when native ladybugs are hibernating. Was she aware that only a few feet away, the tall Diefenbachia held hosts of aphids living upon its stem and large leaves? She seemed uninterested. Ladybugs don’t eat when they are supposed to be hibernating. They live off their stored fat. When they do eat, they eat a lot. One adult ladybug eats about 5,000 aphids in a lifetime – about a year. Ask ladybug totem to voraciously consume your worries and fears, and encourage you to be adventurous. I fished another 18-spotter out from a tall vase that holds my bamboo plant. I placed this one on the windowsill to dry out, to no avail. After awhile I performed an examination with a magnifying glass. All six legs, of five segments each were curled tight against the flat black belly, making a smooth, domed hemisphere. I could clearly see the thorax, to which legs and wings were attached. Mouthparts included mandibles for capturing and crushing prey, and palps to taste food. On Asian ladybugs, the eyes are football-shaped.

Of course, ladybugs are male and female, but hard as I try, I haven’t been able to think of ladybugs as anything other than female, or call them other than "she," so strong is their association with the feminine. Actually, the name used most often for ladybug (Coccinellidae) is ladybird beetle, but in this article, I will call them what most of us grew up calling them -ladybugs. In the middle ages, Catholic farmers prayed to the Virgin Mary to save them from insects decimating their crops. When the ladybugs arrived, the farmers decided to call them, "the Beetles of Our Lady." They also were called Ladyflies, Maycats, and Our Lady’s Key-Maid. In Britain, their popular name became Ladybirds. According to author A.W. Exell, who wrote, History of the Ladybird, there are 329 names for her; 80 pertaining to Mary. The one I like best though is the Cherokee name for ladybug, "Great Beloved Woman."

Beetles constitute one-fifth of all the plant and animal species on the Earth. 350,000 species of beetles have been counted. Coleopterists estimate that there are probably about 8 million species of beetles. No other group has such a variety of color, shape and size. They have been evolving for 250 million years. They thrive by adaptation and structure. Ladybird beetles are among the 17,000 species in North America called advanced beetles, because they are more developed structurally. Insect-eating ladybugs are beneficial to farmers and gardeners, especially plants besieged by their favorite food, aphids. Ladybugs will also eat other scale insects like mealy bugs and mites. Everyone likes ladybugs, except maybe ants attempting to protect their herds of nectar-producing aphids. Although ladybug’s rounded shape makes it appear soft and non-threatening, the Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis), introduced into the U.S. recently has already overcome our native ladybugs. Native ladybugs don’t bite; Asians do. I can attest to that, having been nipped unceremoniously in my own bed. Asians hibernate in groups, but walk around at 50° or more, when solar heat comes through windows, and "wakes them up".

The first thing one notices about a ladybug is color. They come in spots and stripes of red, orange, pink, yellow, white and black. Or solid colors. They come 2-spotted, 5, 7, 9, and 15, There are Twice-Stabbed, Variegated and Red Lady Beetles. In 1975, Ohio made the Convergent Lady Beetle its state insect. Red, orange and yellow symbolize physical vitality and fire energy. Forewarned is forearmed is this totem’s energy. Ladybug’s spots mimic the eyes of a larger animal to scare away predators. Foul odor from reflex (leg) bleeding and bright coloration also deter predators. Ladybugs are universally considered good luck, and it is always bad luck to kill one. When you are visited by ladybug, expect to succeed, grow or start something new. It is a time to enjoy life. Make wishes – as many as there are spots! Legend says that when a ladybug flies off after lighting on you, it is flying to your true love! Be patient as your dreams begin to unfold. Trust that whatever happens is part of granting your wish. Is there a direct route to magic? Imagine yourself hitching a ride on those red enameled wings, like you are on a magic carpet. What is magical for you? Maybe the reason a genie offers three wishes instead of giving everyone the same thing is because we have to define our own magic!

Ladybug is no lightweight polka-dot totem! Lady luck and ladybug both auger good fortune, but how that is accomplished is often a mysterious process. Good fortune? Sometimes it is difficult to ascertain what good fortune is. What we need is not always what we want. Ladybug’s enameled wings split open down the middle. Open to see joy where none was available, compassion for those who suffer; and beauty in the smallest details. Ladybugs retract their legs and antennae under their elytra and suction down, right where they are standing, until danger passes. Sometimes we just have to hunker down patiently, standing our ground, until it’s time to emerge anew. During that time, it is appropriate to protect our newly developing creations. Grubs protect themselves with spiny hair to make themselves more difficult to eat. They also release the same sticky yellow blood as adults do from their legs. It wreaks havoc with predator antennae and mouthparts. What are your defense mechanisms? Are you careful not to get too cynical? Do you trust fruition to occur at the end of your growth cycle?

Spring is the time for people in this totem’s energy to stretch into newness. Prepare yourself for an influx of happiness. Let worries dissipate. Worries and stress really do cause a world of problems, physically and emotionally. Focus on anything that relaxes you or makes you happy, even if you need to repeat it like a mantra. Ladybug goes through a complete metamorphosis as egg, larva (grub), pupa and winged adult. Are you going through tremendous change? Do you need a change? What stage of growth are you in? In spring, female ladybugs lay hundreds of eggs on the foliage of plants, usually near one or more colonies of aphids, so their young will have food nearby. They make them stick with a glue-like substance from their bodies. It takes about a week for the first lumpy, grey larvae to emerge from the eggs. The hungry grubs devour as many aphids as they can for weeks as they grow. Then they attach their tails to a leaf or stem and turn into hard-shelled pupae. After a week or so, the pupae shells split and adult ladybugs emerge. The entire cycle takes 4-7 weeks.

Ladybug has an advanced sensory system to find food, to send signals to other ladybugs and sense danger. Scenting, touching and hearing is done through antennae and palps. Scents travel through the air. Ladybugs have no lungs. They breathe through spiracles, which are openings along the side of the body that let air into the trachea. Two-spot female ladybugs select a mate on the basis of color. The male is usually smaller. He will grip her elytra and thorax with his feet after mounting. If most of the ladybugs are red, they will probably choose a male who is black or yellow. Conversely, a darker female chooses a red male. Opposites attract? Possibly, though this also strengthens the gene pool through genetic variability. The gene pool is also strengthened through cannibalism! Larvae and adults eat their own eggs and fresher larvae. That definitely cuts competition! Are you under pressure to appear better than others? Can you rather go for personal best?

Are we smarter than Nature? Some insects are hard to live with. Some species are accidentally brought into a country. Others are deliberately introduced to eradicate a problem. Though short-term results are undeniable, even greater imbalances are often detected down the road. The non-native may come without natural control agents to keep it in check. Another reason native species are replaced is because they cannot compete for food, as in the case of our native ladybugs. With insufficient knowledge of the repercussions of our actions, we need to think long and hard before we tamper with the perfection of Nature. Allowed to take its course, Nature will provide balance, sometimes through another insect. So the answer to the question, "Are we smarter than Nature" is a resounding NO. Indigenous people lived co-operatively and humbly, before industrialized nations approached Mother Earth with an attitude of subjugation and exploitation. The genius of Nature is unerring. Every single species is integral to the web of life. If it doesn’t seem that way to us, our picture needs to be more comprehensive. As naturalist and ant expert E.O. Wilson states, "Biodiversity is our most valuable, but least appreciated resource."




Cie offers healing for animals. For people, her Shamanic, LightWork & Sound healing sessions as well as the 9-Month Training for innate and practicing Healers and Teachers will change and deepen your life, and bring you optimum results. Call 413 625-0385, or email  cie@ciesimurro.com  to schedule healing or to find out more about the 9-month Training beginning this March. Send $22 to PO Box 295, Shelburne Falls MA 01370 for Totems for Stewards of the Earth book

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