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Insect Lore

ladybug

Ladybug, ladybug,
Fly away home.
Your house is on fire,
Your children will burn.
Ladybug

During the day, fireflies hide in grasses and vegetation, but at night appear to form a twinkling display. At night when they are flashing, lightning bugs (nearly always male) are collected with a net or by hand.

The larvae, feeding on snails, slugs, and cutworms, are extremely helpful in keeping down agricultural pests, but men have used the firefly in ways which have nothing to do with pest control. People in some parts of the world used fireflies as lights. In China and Japan, poor students used to read by the lights of one or two fireflies. The little glowworm of Britain and Europe is bright enough to read a book with if you move it slowly across the page. In South and Central America, there is a species of firefly called Pyrophorus noctilucus. It gives off such a powerful glow that several of them put in a lantern can light a native hut. South American Indians used to tie fireflies to their ankles to light their way on nightly hunting trips.

We should enjoy lightning bugs and never harm them because, according to the superstition, "If a man should kill a glowworm, it will endanger his love affair and may cause the death of his beloved." Besides, who would want to extinguish one of nature's nightlights?

Children in many different countries sing this nursery rhyme. No one knows the reason that this rhyme started. One idea is that it derived from places where a kind of crop called hops was grown. Ladybug larvae are known to live on hop vines. Often, these vines are burned after harvest. The rhyme was said to be a warning telling the ladybug that her children would burn.

The people in Europe also believed the ladybugs could help them in many different ways. In Australia, people used to ask the ladybug for good weather. In Switzerland, people told their children that human babies were brought by ladybugs. In northern Germany, they counted spots on the backs of ladybugs. Fewer than seven meant a big harvest. People in Central Europe believed that if a girl caught a ladybug and it crawled across her hand, she would be married within a year.

Ladybugs were also used in the early 1800's by English doctors as a treatment for measles. They also believed that if you mashed ladybugs and put them into a cavity, the insects would stop a toothache.

The ladybug also has many odd names in countries around the world. It is called the Flower Lady in China, the Water Delivery-Man's Daughter in Iraq, the Indra's Cowherd in India, the Crop Picker in Africa, the Good News in Iran, and the Lord God's Little Fatty in Switzerland. In all of these countries, having ladybugs around is thought to be good luck. Since the little beetles eat so many nasty pests, they do seem to be good luck to farmers.

Danielle Waltz
Class of 1999

Jessie Janeshek
Class of 1999

firefly

Firefly
(Editor's note: These works are excerpts from insect reports written for Mr. Rohal's Science 10 class. The accompanying photographs display the models students were required to construct of their insects.)

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Pete Rohal
Copyright, September 23, 1997, Pete R. Rohal
All Rights Reserved

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