The Coccinellidae, more commonly known as the ladybug, is a family of insects, well known for their red, orange, or yellow coloring and small black spots.
There are over 6,000 different species of ladybugs across the globe, many of which are considered helpful, as they eat aphids and other smaller creatures that are considered pests to crops.
Though they are commonly referred to as “bugs,” ladybugs are not true bugs (as they are actually beetles). It is more correct to refer to them as ladybird beetles or lady beetles.
So what do ladybugs mean?
Several superstitions have emerged about these amazing insects. While some of them (like the idea that the number of spots they have is indicative of their age) are untrue, these beetles have long held a place in human culture and mythologies, coming to symbolize many things to many groups of people.
What Do Ladybugs Mean Throughout Cultures?
The deeper meaning of the ladybug differs depending on who you consult. The ladybug has taken on many roles, which have changed over time and vary from culture to culture.
In British Culture
It is from the British tradition that ladybugs may have gotten their nickname. The story goes that during the Middle Ages, farmer’s crops were being decimated by small insects. They prayed to the Virgin Mary for assistance, and then, ladybugs appeared to help quell the number of pests attacking the crops.
The farmers associated the beetles with the Virgin Mary’s favor, at first calling them the “Beetles of Our Lady,” which was then shortened to “Lady Beetles,” and finally “Ladybugs.” They believed the red shell of the beetles represented the cloak of the Virgin Mary, and the spots denoted her seven joys and sorrows. The Medieval Brits even had a poem dedicated to the respect they held for the beetles, one you may have heard before:
“Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home.
Your house is on fire, and your children will burn.
All except for little nan, weaving gold laces as fast as she can.”
What you might not have known is that the poem is also a reference to the end of the harvest season. Farmers would burn their crops to clear space for new ones that they would plant the following year. The poem warns the ladybugs, who they admired, to get out of dodge so that they didn’t burn to death in the blaze. Unfortunately, little nan, still pupae, could not escape and perished in the deadly fires (got to love those delightful Brits).
During the Victorian era, the British developed a superstition that a ladybug landing on your hand meant you would soon be receiving a new pair of gloves, while a ladybug landing on the head meant a new hat was on the way, etc.
In Other Parts of The World
The British don’t have the monopoly on ladybug superstitions. They hold varying levels of significance the world over. In French folklore, for instance, people believe that ladybugs bring good weather for the grapes used to make wine. They also believe that if a ladybug lands on you, there’s a chance that it will cure you of any ailments you may have.
In Sweden, the believed that when a ladybug landed on a girl’s hand, it indicated that she would soon be married. The Austrians shared the French belief that ladybugs signified good weather, while many other European traditions shared a common belief that ladybugs were bringers of good luck and an indicator of love on the horizon.
For example, in the Norse tradition, when a man and woman spotted a ladybug at the same time, romance was said to blossom between them. In Brussels, the number of spots a ladybug had would tell the person holding it how many children they might have. In Switzerland, parents would tell children that ladybugs brought the kids to the parents as babies.
There are many poems that hint at the ladybug being able to locate a potential future flame, such as this one:
“Fly away east or fly away west, and show me where lives the one I like best.”
Or this one:
“Lady, Lady, Lady Landers,
Tak yer cloak aboot your heid
An flee awa to Flanders.
Flee ower firth and flee ower fell,
Flee ower pool and rennin well,
Flee ower muir an flee ower mead,
Flee ower leevin, flee ower deid,
Flee ower corn, flee ower lea,
Flee ower river, flee ower sea,
Flee ye east or flee ye west,
Flee til her that loves me best.”
Not all the superstitions generated from Europe were strictly about love, happiness, weather, and new clothing, though. Another Norse legend claims that ladybugs came to Earth atop a powerful bolt of lightning. Why was never indicated, but the imagery this tale evokes is quite thrilling.
In the Americas, ladybugs were intentionally introduced to help combat a rising number of pests that were killing off crops. They ladybugs were so good at the job, that folks soon began breeding them specifically for this purpose, and started to revere them as a symbol of luck, fortune, and protection:
“Lovely little ladybug sent from heaven above please watch over my garden and fill it up with love.”
Ladybugs are even said to be able to fulfill wishes. A variation of the “Ladybug, ladybug” rhyme indicates that after a ladybug lands on you, you can then make a wish and release it. Whatever direction the ladybug flies is the direction from which your wish will come.
Asian cultures also revere the ladybug, believing that the ladybug can understand human language and carries with it the blessing of the gods. If you find a ladybug in your home, it is considered good luck.
In almost all cultures that attach significance to the ladybug, luck is a common theme, and killing a ladybug is strictly forbidden. Those who commit this unwise transgression are said to be cursed with bad luck and ill-fortunes for some time.
In addition to these many cultural beliefs, there are deeper meanings assigned to the ladybug born from dream interpretation, the idea of spirit animals, and totemic powers.
The Ladybug in Dreams
For some, spotting a ladybug in your dreams is said to be representative of a problem in your life that you need to address. It could be a significant other giving you trouble; it could be a part of your daily routine that is causing your stress or a habit that is getting out of control. The presence of the ladybug is a reminder that you need to deal with these issues, and approach them with a cool head. Always come at your problems with compassion and understanding, as being foolhardy could lead to ruin.
Alternatively, it could mean that good luck is on the horizon. Ladybugs are also a symbol of healing, so them appearing in your dreams might mean that something fortuitous is coming your way, something that could correct an aspect of your life that is out of control. They say that the presence of the ladybug is a harbinger of wish fulfillment, so you should focus on what you want and go after it with renewed zeal.
Using Numerology, some associate the number of spots a ladybug has when it appears with your dream to different characteristics:
- One Spot: Union
- Two Spots: Duality
- Three Spots: Transcending Opposites
- Four Spots: The Elements
- Five Spots: The Center
- Six Spots: Love
- Seven Spots: Completion
A Connection to Innocence
As there are many poems, songs, and children’s stories written about ladybugs, they have developed a connection with the idea of childhood and innocence. It’s part of the reason you find so many children items with ladybug themes and designs.
You can see the way that children delight at the sight of the ladybug, and unlike other insects, do not fear it. Some people see the ladybug as a reminder to hold onto this sense of childlike wonder, to not let the world wear down their own sense of innocence, and to hold on to their connection with nature.
The Ladybug as A Spirit Creature
Others still see the ladybug as a spirit animal, and that associating themselves with the ladybug brings inner happiness. With the mark of the ladybug, they can take pleasure in the tiny wonders that life has to offer, shield themselves from negativity, act against things that are impeding progress in their life, and find the confidence to do away with unhealthy relationships.
Those who take on the ladybug’s power believe that can spread a sense of playful joy to others, and live their life on their own terms, protected by the blessing of their chosen spirit creature.
Ladybugs are fascinating insects that have inspired many fascinating beliefs among humans. They may well have gotten their name from an association with Christianity and the Virgin Mary, but have many other meanings that aren’t strictly associated with religion.
Almost universally, cultures believe that the ladybug is symbolic of luck and love and that bringing harm to a ladybug is something that will cause ill-fortune. If you’d like to learn more about ladybugs, you can start with an old classic that mentions them and their connection to Western culture: “Folk lore, or, Superstitious beliefs in the west of Scotland within this century.“