How the Ladybug Got its Name

Did you know? The ladybug—that classic, round, bright red beetle with black spots—is not named after all ladies? In fact, ladybugs are named after one specific lady. Can you guess who?

If you guessed Our Lady, the Virgin Mary, you are right! Though we don’t know for sure what the reason is, there are a few stories about how the ladybug got its name.

The Middle Ages

child holds a ladybug in her hand

One story goes that farmers in the Middle Ages were suffering from pests eating their crops. The farmers, who had no modern pesticides or means of protecting their farm, implored the Virgin Mary to intercede for them and to save their livelihoods. In response, Mary sent them a swarm of tiny red beetles that devoured the pests and saved the farmers’ crops.

Maybe this really did happen! It’s true that ladybugs almost exclusively munch on garden pests like aphids and other plant-eating bugs. And Mama Mary loves to lend us a hand.

Our Lady’s Cloak

Some say that the ladybug got its name because its appearance was similar to that of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In ancient paintings of the Mother of God, Mary is often depicted in a red cloak, like the color of a ladybug’s wings.

In addition, a ladybug has seven black spots on its wings. These are said to represent the Seven Sorrows and Seven Joys of Mary.

What’s in a name?

The Latin name for ladybugs is coccinellids, derived from the Latin word coccineus which means scarlet. Across the world, these bugs were given names associated with the Virgin Mary. In Britain, ladybird, “Our Lady’s bird, or Lady beetle. In German, Marienkäfer which is translated Marybeetle. In the United States, of course, the name was adapted to ladybug.

Well, now you know! And you have some fun facts to share with your friends.


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Lindsey Kettner serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a wife, mother, and graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she studied journalism and advertising. She writes daily at relevantradio.com and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.