Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The ladybird - beneficial to agriculture

Ladybirds are familiar insects, easily recognised by adults and young children thanks to their typical shape and bright colours and because from an early age these children learn about them creatures through books, rhymes and stories that abound in Malta and many parts of the world.  

There are more than 5,200 species of ladybird worldwide. The name originated from one particular species, the seven spot ladybird which is the most familiar species in Malta and in the rest of Europe. Wherever it occurs this particular species has many names many of which are tied to Christian beliefs and mythology. 

One author lists 329 common names for the ladybird from 55 countries of which over 80 refer to the Virgin Mary and more than 50 are dedicated to God. The red colour base is said to represent Our Lady’s cloak and the 7 black spots her 7 joys and 7 sorrows. In German the ladybird is commonly known as Marienkäfer (Marybeetle). In Italy it is sometimes known as “gallinelle del Signore" or "gallinelle della Madonna". Contrarily one Italian name is 'galineta del diavolo' or 'the devils chicken'. Other names include the Swedish Himelska nyckla or 'the keys of heaven' and the Cherokee 'great beloved woman'.

In Malta the ladybird also has several names many of which are known by only a handful of people and are at risk of being lost and forget unless they are collected and recorded. The most common name is nannakola. Kola might be referring to San Nikola (Saint Nicolas). A quick look at just one local dictionary turns up several other names and variations including barbażjola, barbaxiħa, sebbellika, bellika, sebella, żebbellika, żabbetta, żzabbettina, żejba and żeppellina.

In Malta as elsewhere the ladybird is also popular in childrens’ rhymes. Maltese children learn from an early age the stanza starting with Nannakola tmur l-iskola

In the English speaking word it is

Ladybird ladybird fly away home,
Your house is on fire and your children all gone.
All except one whose name is Anne
Who hid herself under the frying pan.

Teaching children about these insects through rhymes was important as it taught them from an early age to love these insects which are beneficial to agriculture as they helped to control agricultural pests.

I am presently compiling information about ladybirds and other insects including names and tradition and would like to receive more information about the subject. 

Anybody having such information is kindly asked to contact me an email at portelli.paul@gmail.com.


1 comment:

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