Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home; your house is on fire and your children are gone!
Last week my husband and I flew away home to Colorado because his grandfather passed away. On our first day there, we decided to take a drive to the mountains; my husband thought it would be a fitting tribute to his grandfather who loved to drive in the mountains, though he assured me that our drive would be less terrifying than a typical drive with Grandpa, who enjoyed driving quite fast on mountain roads. We had initially planned to drive up to Mount Evans, only to get there and realize it was closed Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays in July for road work. So we turned around and headed back to Denver.
On the highway back to Denver is a sign that says “Buffalo Herd Overlook.” Naturally, this lil Bufflo wanted to see some buffalos. So we got off at the exit and drove around looking for a spot to spy some bison. This really meant driving all over Genesee Mountain, as the signs for the overlook were somewhat less than clear. We’d drive up the mountain a while, and then get out and look around and try to see some big brown, wooly beasts, then strike out, get back in the car, drive some more, and repeat.
Finally, we got to the top of the mountain, and we still hadn’t seen any buffalo. We decided to get out of the car anyway, and headed toward a flag planted on the very top of the mountain. As we reached it, we noticed that the air was buzzing with small insects. “Wow, this place has lots of ladybugs!” I said to Jon. A man wearing overalls and standing on a rock nearby said we should walk over to a nearby tree if we REALLY wanted to see them. We headed toward the tree, and slowly, what looked like orange bark turned out to be crawling. Crawling with hundreds of tiny ladybugs. They were swarming on every surface imaginable. Another old man, who seemed about a million years old and was hobbling around the mountain with a walking stick, told us that he’s seen this phenomenon a few times before. He acted like we weren’t seeing the craziest thing ever.
But seriously folks, millions and millions of LADYBUGS! IT WAS THE CRAZIEST THING EVER! We sat for a while and watched them swarm and crawl over rocks and trees and grass. Eventually I think they began to accept us as part of the scenery, because they slowly started to land on us! That’s pretty much when what had been the “cutest infestation ever” began to seem creepy. I imagined my entire body covered in ladybugs. I had visions of that scene from “The Mummy” where the scarabs swarm out of the mummy’s mouth, only with ladybugs flying out of MY mouth. My skin began to crawl. So with that, we snapped a few pictures and headed out.
The next day, we picked Jon’s sister and her husband and daughter up from the airport after they arrived home from a vacation in Chicago, and we told them about the ladybugs. “Crazy!” his sister said, “We actually saw that on the national news when we were in Chicago!” Sure enough:
And it gets even crazier! In preparation for Grandpa’s funeral, we all pulled out old family albums and were flipping through them. And in an album from 1987, we found photos Grandma and Grandpa had taken of the exact same type of ladybug swarm on the exact same location: Genesee Mountain. So, if you’re curious about seeing millions of ladybugs, and you’re wondering where to go (the hermits in the news reports seem not to want other people to come see them), Genesee Mountain is a public place, and you should go check them out!
And if you’re curious about the nursery rhyme at the beginning of this post, here’s the scoop: “Farmers knew of the Ladybird’s value in reducing the level of pests in their crops and it was traditional for them to cry out the rhyme before they burnt their fields following harvests ( this reduced the level of insects and pests) in deference to the helpful ladybird.”
UPDATE: found a source as to the “why” of the ladybug swarm.
The insects are out in force in the Front Range region of Colorado thanks to increased rainfall during spring and early summer. The additional moisture has made their food supply plentiful so their numbers have increased by 15 to 20 percent.