"Ladybug ladybug, fly away home, your house is on fire, your children are all gone." This rhyme finds its roots in the hop crops of England. Ladybugs are a type of small beetle with shiny bright orange, yellow, or red shells, a pattern of black spots (Usually 4), usually black faces (Though some varieties have white faces), and black legs. Some people call the ladybug the "Lady Bird," beetle. According to the National Geographic Society, they are indigenous to North America and Europe and usually have a life-span of between 2 and 3 years in the wild.
These are usually a very desirable predator species for farmers. These innocent looking little beauties are viscous carnivores of other insects and can be hazardous to your health if you are a bug! Farmers in the late 1800s actually imported these insects to California in an attempt to rid their crops of the Cottony Cushion Scale, a bug that almost obliterated their citrus harvest at the time. Cottony Cushion Scales attach themselves to the plant, cover themselves and their eggs in a secretion and sit there sucking the plant juices out of its leaves; bad for the crops, easy pickings for the lady bugs.
Hop, or more specifically, the Common Hop, is a species of vine plants that produce the yellow-green flowers used to make beer. The buds secret an oily substance. This substance serves as an anti-bacterial agent, which also gives the beer its bitter taste. The above ground vine on a hop plant is perennial and can grow as long as 25 ft, but the main plant grows underground and lives from year to year.Each year in late summer/ early autumn, the hops are harvested and the above ground vines are set on fire; thus, the ladybugs are literally burned out of house and home. No fear, these pretty little creatures are smart enough to move on to the next farm and find another group of tasty insects to munch on until the next growing season.
It is the mass migration of the ladybugs, fleeing the crop fires to find a new home that inspired this nursery rhyme.
Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home,
Your house is on fire, your children are gone;
All but one and her name is Ann,And she crept under the pudding-pan.
-Mother Goose nursery rhyme