We’ll be the first to admit that we’ve never looked at a ladybug and thought, “Where did that name come from?” Yet, that is a fair question, especially considering that these beetles display no stereotypically feminine characteristics. So, why ladybug?
YouTube channel Today I Found Out has given us the inside scoop on these colorful bugs, making us wish we had this information sooner. According to Ladybugs of Alberta: Finding the Spots and Connecting the Dots, ladybugs were named after a specific lady: The Virgin Mary. No one knows exactly how this came to be, but there is a fascinating, popular theory.
Back in the day, when farmers didn’t have pesticides to kill off the insects that would eat all their crops, they prayed for help. Specifically, they prayed to the Virgin Mary, asking her to save their harvest. An old European legend states that, one memorable time, these pleas were answered when a swarm of tiny, red beetles came to save the day (since these insects tend to eat the bugs that destroy crops).
In many biblical paintings, the Virgin Mary is shown to be wearing a bright red cloak – one that resembles the color on the ladybug’s shell. When the farmers of the past saw the beetles flying toward their soon-to-be destroyed crops, they felt that the Virgin Mary was looking out for them and, thus, they named the insect after her.
Thanks to their dietary habits, the University of Dayton reports that many have linked ladybugs with God and/or Mary (because saving crops was super important back in the day). In Germany, for example, they call the ladybug “Marienkäfer,” which translates to “Mary’s Beetle.” As for Russia, they refer to their ladybugs as “Bozhya korovka,” meaning “God’s little cow.”
Now, whenever we see a ladybug, we’ll be sure to thank them for potentially saving our crops. Also, we may just start calling them “little cows” because that’s super cute.