Our Lady’s Birds
In England, early images of The Virgin Mary often portrayed her wearing a scarlet robe so it made sense from a medieval perspective to call the little red-shelled beetles that made the gardens their homes “Our Lady’s Birds.” The English Seven Spot Ladybird beetle’s “look,” rocking black spots on a shiny red shell is so striking and memorable that it’s image “branded” the entire family forever. When you factor in that the seven black spots on the Ladybird beetle’s shell recall the Virgin Mother’s “Seven Sorrows,” then the name is even richer in meaning. When Our Lady’s Birds crossed the Atlantic to the Americas they got their names changed at Ellis Island, just like so many other immigrants. The name, “Ladybug,” is an Americanism.
Be they birds, bugs, or beetles, these cute little creatures are fierce predators in the garden and gobble many times their weight in pesty aphids during their lives. Interestingly enough, the Ladybugs that eat the most pests don’t look like Ladybugs at all. Like all beetles, the Ladybugs have a larval form of life before they pupate and become the cute, red shelled, black spotted creatures we love to find in our gardens. The larval, or nymph stage, ladybugs eat a lot more pests than the mature, hard-shelled forms. For the gardener, the goal has to be to create an environment so attractive to the Ladybugs that the mature beetles fly in, have a meal, then decide to lay eggs. If you buy a jar of ladybugs and turn them loose in your garden they may all fly away. So save your money and create the garden they fly to!
Planting a mix of perennial and annual plant species will give the Ladybugs a place to take shelter and lay their eggs even when one part of the garden is being turned under. If you don’t spray your garden with pesticides then some pests will be able to survive, which will give the hatching ladybug larvae something to eat. We aim to create a delicate balance wherein there are enough living pests to support a permanent predator population of Ladybugs, but not so many pests as to damage the crops. At our home ranch we’ve planted a drought tolerant hedgerow at the edge of our citrus orchard that is only a year old, but is already serving as habitat for aphids- and the Ladybugs that feed on them.
—© 2021 Essay by Andy Griffin and photos by Starling Linden and Andy Griffin
As the weather is getting warmer, the sun is rising earlier and the harvesting begins with the sunrise, we will be closing our East Bay/Peninsula shop by 6 PM on the Wednesday evenings before the Friday delivery. We close our San Francisco & Mystery Thursday shops on Wednesday mornings by 8 AM and our Santa Cruz/Los Gatos shop by 8 AM, on Monday mornings. Please get your orders in early so you don’t miss out on the harvest! Thank you all again for being such a part of our bountiful farm!
If you haven’t ordered a Mystery Box recently, now is a great time to get in on spring deliciousness! LadybugBuyingClub