The lull of Heshvan
The Chernobyler's opening words

Ladybug, ladybug

A day always comes in late October -- usually a sunny day, unseasonably warm -- when suddenly there are ladybugs in and on our house. It almost seems they spontaneously generate. One day there aren't any; the next day, they're climbing happily on our ceilings and our south-facing windows, an aggregate perpetual motion machine.

We're not alone in this. Pretty much everyone I know in northern Berkshire gets ladybugs in the fall. As pests go, they're not very...pesky, really. They don't bite or sting; they don't eat our food; they don't damage our dwelling. They just flit around, little red dots with black spots on, like somebody's peculiar idea of wall and ceiling decoration.

Ladybugs are coccinellidae. Some people consider them good luck charms, or at least signs of good luck soon coming. (Evidently this is so in Northern Europe, Russia, and Turkey, among other places.) A cursory search yielded a range of stories and proverbs about ladybugs. (This fable is kind of disturbing.) Some species are migratory. Others overwinter in structures -- like, say, south-facing houses.

When I noticed a few of them gliding around the interior of the windows in our living room, I stepped outside. That was kind of surreal. Everywhere I look, ladybugs are darting through the air, like falling leaves only with slightly more direction and volition. The house is, predictably, covered with them; they crawl quickly across the blank canvas of the clapboards. It's easy to anthropomorphize, to presume they're on their way to someplace very important.

Apparently the ones we get here are Asian ladybird beetles (Harmonia axyridis), introduced to the United States some time ago because they like to eat aphids (and other things which in turn eat our crops.) I don't actually mind them; they're kind of charming, in their way. Years ago I wrote a prose poem in the form of a Talmudic debate about what to do with the ladybugs. I can't find the poem anywhere on my hard drive, though; it exists now only as tiny fragments of memory.

Standing outside even for a brief moment, I find myself also adorned with ladybugs. As they whiz past me, one lands on my arm, another on my wrist, three on my sweater, one on my hair. I brush them off carefully when I come inside. Tiny bright harbingers of autumn! They remind me to enjoy the sun of these sweet Indian summer days before the cold I know is coming.

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