We have had our share of wildfires in the American West in the last few years, which unfortunately has a negative effect on the Ladybug populations. Millions and millions of Ladybugs haveperished in the fires, as they are unable to outfly the flames, and do not understand the need to flee, or they may be in a deep sleep which occurs during the hibernation stage of their lives.
Perhaps the well-loved nursery songs, some dating back to 1744, of “Ladybug, Lady bug fly away home, Your house is on fire and your children are gone, All except one, And her name is Ann, And she hid under the baking pan!” are some indication of the love for these little beetles which represent good luck and remain endeared to the hearts of many. The nursery rhymes, and Ladybug popularity are world-wide, some rhyme versions dating back to England, as long ago as 1744, eludes to how long Ladybugs have been popular with children, and farmers! Yes farmers. Ladybugs, also called Ladybirds, have been popular with farmers as they eat the aphids from the crops! When the fields were burned off, the Ladybugs were sent off ahead of time by the farmers singing to them as they knew how important they were to their farming practices.
Small fires, such as the ones lit by farmers to burn their fields, have little effect on Ladybug populations and health, as they can keep ahead of such fires and the next generations of surviving ladybugs can easily fly to unburned areas nearby. Whereas, large areas of burns in the forest negatively impact Ladybug populations for decades as the future generations definitively loose the “perfect habitat” that is required for the beetle’s hibernation areas.
Yes, Ladybugs do hibernate—like bears they go into a deep sleep! Hibernating Ladybugs require open sun-filled areas; like meadows surrounded by tall trees which provide the proper amount of shade. They require a combination of shade and sun; this combination must also occur during the proper time of year that Ladybugs hibernate! With the loss of tall trees for shade, due to improper forest management and devastating fires many Ladybugs lose the “perfect habitat” that they have been drawn to year after year, and generation after generation. They must bypass the large burn areas to find the best of conditions elsewhere to hibernate in. They must fly many extra miles to find unburned areas and new “perfect habitat”. This can weaken the Ladybugs, and it can certainly throw them off of their normal migration patterns.
Proper forest management enhances Ladybug habitats and populations by opening up dense stands of trees to allow for more sunlight so that grasses, weeds, and small bushes thrive, and meadows can be born. Aphids which are the Ladybugs favorite food thrive on the aforementioned plants, thus providing the Ladybugs with proper nutrition. Thinner stands of trees make wildfires easier to control. Less trees per acre also allows for more water in the meadows which helps to inhibit the encroachment and natural tendency of trees to grow and spread. With more open meadows, habitat improves for so much of wildlife from Butterflies to Bees and the entire food chain that exists for wildlife in the forest including the Lucky Ladybugs! After all, who doesn’t love a beautiful meadow scene surrounded by trees that are spaced gently allowing the sunlight through! A beautiful scene where one can walk through a well-managed forest noting the various stages and types of wildlife, rather than hacking through a dense forest with a machete! Ladybugs use trails and roadways as the air currents assist them in their migration, likewise well managed forests allow for air currents to circulate. With such well managed forests, as existed prior to the late eighties habitat was indeed less likely to burn covering large areas.
Ladybugs can adapt to the small burn areas quite well, but large burns will have a negative effect on their health and numbers for decades to come.
Come join in the fun, learning and teaching the lifecycle and migration cycles of the Ladybug through board game play! Children and adults alike will find a new joy and awareness in the bug that tickles so many fancies! The Ladybug through the years has been a favorite of so many and has been as a symbol of Luck worldwide, having a most positive and heart-warming following. Let’s do what we can to learn more about her and how we can help through various venues, such as helping to create and maintain the “perfect habitat” for her wildlife friends!