Tree-trimming time. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

Tree-trimming time. (All photos by Marylin Warner)

Lady Bugs IMG_2817


Dear Mom,

When I was growing up, there were many times when I came into the kitchen for a drink of water on a summer day, and you would say, “Oh, you brought along a friend.”  You taught me to gently cup my hand over the Lady Bug on my arm or my neck or my shirt, walk back outside and free it near a rose bush or on the branch of a tree.  “Lady Bug, Lady Bug, fly away home…”

Last week, Jim and I hired a tree service to do some major work around our house in Colorado. They removed infected trees, trimmed others, planted a slow-growing pine in place of a diseased tree they’d removed. The arborist pointed out aphids in our two huge maple trees in front of the house. You would like him, Mom; instead of spraying the trees to treat the problem, he sent us to a nursery for two bags of Lady Bugs.  4,000 hungry little red friends who were starving for aphids.

That night after sunset, Jim and I opened the mesh bags in the cross sections of the maples. They swarmed out and immediately trailed up the branches like soldiers marching into battle. Some fell on us, crawling on our arms, flying around our faces.  I loved it, and just as you taught me, I carefully released each one on the tree branch. It was a magical evening, reminding me of my childhood, and I  decided I could be very happy being a part-time Lady Bug releaser!

In Dostoevsky’s novel, THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV, the main character says this in the final chapter: “There is nothing nobler, stronger, healthier and more helpful in life than a good remembrance, particularly a remembrance from childhood. A beautiful, holy memory preserved from childhood can be the single most important thing in our development.”

Dostoevsky never knew Lady Bugs in Kansas, never saw you smile as you helped me carefully transport them back outside, and he never knew of the hundreds of good memories I have of growing up with you and Dad as my parents. But I remember, and yes, those memories have made a profound difference in my life.   Thank you, Mom.

Love, Marylin

Young Gannon and Grace, receiving the portrait of their great-great-grandmother Grace, so they'll know about her life.

Young Gannon and Grace, receiving the portrait of their great-great-grandmother Grace, so they’ll know about her life.


Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, gardening, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations, spending time with kids

61 responses to “4,000 GARDEN LADIES

  1. Diana Stevan

    Ah, Marylin, you brought tears to my eyes again. And thank you for the Dostoyevsky quote. No truer words were spoken.

    • Thank you Diana. I agree.
      Moscow…Kansas. Dostoyevsky’s CRIME AND PUNISHMENT…my mom’s poems and children’s stories. There’s a thread of basic truths about life weaving through it all. I don’t know if they have Lady Bugs in Russia, but I hope they do, and the children are also amazed by them there, too.

  2. This is lovely…thank you!

  3. Beautiful post, Marylin. Oh, how I love Lady Bugs.

  4. P.S. If I could “Liked” this post more than once, I would! 🙂

  5. molly

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! I can totally see you being giddy over the release of the ladybugs. Perhaps your tree will need more aphid eaters when Grace and Gannon come to visit. Beautiful story, Mom…..THANKS!

    • The nice things about Lady Bugs is that they eat aphids and wait for more aphids…or fly away to find more aphids to eat somewhere else. When Grace and Gannon come to visit, we’ll invest in at least another 2,000 Garden Ladies and let the kids set them free. It feels like magic!

  6. Truly lovely post Marylin! Your story brings back fond memories of my own childhood. You capture your memories so beautifully through the written word. Thanks for sharing and stimulating pleasant thoughts of my own.

    And the portrait is AWESOME! So very neat that you have that to share. Priceless!
    Blessings, Robyn

  7. Thank you, Robyn. The portrait of Grace (my dad’s mother who died when he was three) was painted around 1862. My parents found it rolled, tied with a ribbon and stored in an old trunk in the 1960s. They had it restored and framed, and then when their great-grandchildren came along–especially little Grace, named for her great-great-grandmother–my mother gave it to them. I look at that picture and realize that if Grace had died before she gave birth to my dad, instead of after, the lineage would have ended there, and none of us would be here. It’s a priceless portrait for several reasons, but especially for that reminder.

  8. I’ve never read The Brothers Karamazov, but it’s now on my to-read list, thanks to this wonderful post and your wonderful mother. And you know that I’ll now think of her each time I see a ladybug.

    • Actually, Darla, THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV is, in my opinion, like CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, a tedious read as a novel, but full of one-liner bits of wisdom and rich insights into human nature.
      But as for the simpler side of life, each time I see Lady Bug I smile, and sometimes I carefully transport it to another tree.

      • I think I’ll still give the Brothers a try but not until fall or winter. It doesn’t sound like summer reading! I’ll let you know how far I get through it.

  9. I love how you turn an everyday event like having your trees lopped into such a sweet, heartfelt childhood memoir – and buying bags of ladybugs – I so wish we did that here!

    • Jenny, you might check a nursery and be surprised that in the UK there are also tree aphids…and also Lady Bugs to the rescue. It really is amazing, and more fun than adults usually have after writing a big check to tree trimmers!

  10. Don

    Aaah! the memory – lady bug, lady bug fly away…Thank you for bringing it back and Dostoevsky is so right about a childhood memory – one of my favourite books. Your post Marylin fills one with life – again, thank you.

  11. What a great memory, and a great novelist of course

  12. Jim

    Releasing those lady bugs was really fun. They crawled by the hundreds slowly up the large maple limbs, a “friendly infestation” in motion. As a little boy, I was taught, ” Lady-bug, lady-bug, fly away home . . .” by my next door neighbor Cathy as I was about to swat one crawling on my arm. Marylin, your memories of Mary frequently bring back fond memories and lessons from my childhood. Thanks from your hubby.

    • Hugs from you wife, sweetie. While you grew up in Colorado, I was growing up in Kansas, but we have many of the same childhood memories to tell our grandchildren as we travel between the two states. When the kids come for a visit, we get another bag of “Garden Ladies” so they can have their own magical adventure setting the Lady Bugs free.

  13. Beautiful! I loved how you released the army of lady bugs instead of chemicals. I am sure you would have remembered your childhood in those magical moments. And I am sure your mom would have smiled.

    That is a compelling quote by Dostoevsky.

    • Thank you. I see my mother in a few weeks for our next visit, and I have a picture of Lady Bugs on a leaf that I know will make her smile. Her short term memory is very poor, but sometimes her long term memory is surprising. Since she “trained” me to carefully transport Lady Bugs more than fifty years ago, maybe she will remember when I tell her about it. I hope so.

  14. Dear Marylin,Thank you for visiting Speedy’s Blog,I have only just seen your comment so I thought I would pop over to say hello and to say that this is a beautiful blog,it must be hard to live with the knowledge that a loved one has this horrible disease and I hope I never have to go throught this experience my self,but if you feel the need for a little cheer please pop over and visit any time,Speedy brings light and love and laughter to many just when they need it most,best wishes Rachel,Speedy’s mum

  15. What a beautiful story, Marylin! And I love the quote from Dostoevsky.

    Your post brought back so many lovely memories…as children, we used to go out on a summer’s evening in NYC and be surrounded by flickering fireflies…lightning bugs, we called them. WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Are they extinct? Not native to Colorado? Does anyone know?

    Good luck with your tree and garden work. 🙂

    • I have no idea, Vivian. There are still more than enough on summer nights in Kansas, yet here in Colorado Springs we rarely see lightning bugs. But we do have plenty of Lady Bugs, or we do now that Jim and I released 4,000 more! It’s great fun for kids, too.

  16. So, I’m almost crying. My grandmother is the one who taught me the “Ladybug, ladybug fly away home…” rhyme. i can hardly believe how often your musings fit in such a timely manner in my life. Did I know you in Jr. High? Were we cheerleaders together?

    • We do have so many similar memories, Tracy. Until you got to the cheerleader part. When you were leading cheers, I was a Cross-X debater and writing for the school newspaper. Sounds like you had more fun!

  17. I love ladybugs and how helpful they are to plants. Great quote too, I really should put that book on my to-read list.

    • Your boys would be fascinated by the experience of releasing 2,000 lady bugs from a pack. And think of the help you’d be giving your trees!

      • You know, I had tons of aphids on my roses a few months ago, so I called both Lowe’s and Home Depot to know if they had ladybugs (I had bought some there in the past). They both said they didn’t and laughed at me, as if I was asking a really strange question! I never got around to call the garden store and ended up spraying some organic pesticide. I have to try next year with at least a small bag because it’s very neat to do.

      • Try calling a garden center. In Colorado Springs at least four places sell Lady Bugs, and one was just a mile from our house. There are also gardening magazines that sell Lady Bugs, but I don’t know how well that works, mailing them from New Jersey to Colorado!

  18. Thanks again for another lovely post. I’m going to search our trees at the cabin and almost hope I find aphids so we can get some lady bugs (we used to call them ladybirds in England). How many spots do the ones you get in your bag have?
    Lovely quote about childhood memories.

    • Thanks, Rod. I’ll join you in hoping to find aphids at the cabin (what a strange hope that is…) If you have any rose bushes, Lady Bugs are good booster protections for roses, too.
      The ones we got in the packs (2,000 per packs) were much smaller than usual Lady Bugs, but supposedly they will grow very quickly once they start chowing down on aphids. On the little ones we released, we could see speckles of spots, but I didn’t count them.
      I like the name Ladybirds!

  19. Marylin, what a great post, and I like your arborist, using ladybugs to solve the problem and not reaching for the spray equipment as so many others would have done, without a second thought.

    All I can say about the quote from Dostoevsky is ‘what a wonderful thought’ if only it were true for all!

    • And I truly wish you had lots and lots of the childhood memories Dostoevsky described, Tom. You deserve them.
      But in spite of being shortchanged, you have definitely still created those memories for your own children and grandchildren. Now, THAT is a true gift from a very special man.

  20. juliabarrett

    Ahhh, can’t say enough good things about ladybugs and fireflies. Miss the fireflies, release ladybugs in my garden. Such happy bugs!

  21. And so productive, too, Julia. They start so very small, and then they eat double their weight in aphids and grow bigger and bigger. I love Lady Bugs!
    I also had an ant farm when I was growing up, and it was fascinating watching them build their world inside the glass. But I wouldn’t have wanted them to escape inside (though I did set the entire farm free out in the field between our house and our neighbor’s house). With Lady Bugs I love having them free around me, flying and landing on my arms.

  22. It is lovely to ‘see’ you in my mind releasing lady bugs. I can’t even get my head around that many lady bugs although I have no trouble imagining thousands and thousands of aphids. Great memories created to add to your other lovely memories.

    • It was an amazing evening!
      Lady Bugs are delicate fliers to start with, but these were tiny, red with specks of black, hungry for aphids that would make the Lady Bugs quickly double in size. We’ve already decided that when the grandchildren come for a visit soon, we’ll get one more bag–only 2,000 this time–and let them open it around the roses. Already they’re planning to wear their swimming suits so the ladies will have plenty of contact and landing space.

  23. Nancy Brummett

    I didn’t know those “ladies” were so useful as well as wonderful to watch. Great memories of your mom. Thanks for sharing.

    • Oh, Nancy, if you have aphids on your rose bushes, do the roses–and yourself–a favor and unleash a small bag of Lady Bugs. You’ll have so much fun, and the roses will thank you, too!

  24. I have an Aunt who used to live in CT. Lady Beatles are indeed nice when there are only a few hundred. But she had an infestation in her home.

    Another time while at the beach, we were walking and must have toed open a nest of Lady Beatles in the sand. Really very close to the shore line in the wet sand – we had bunches crawling up our arms and legs. Until the wind blew them away…

    Thanks for your visit.

  25. Well I also know them as Lady Bugs, I misread your package and thought it said Lady Beatles instead of Garden Ladies. I think our friends across the pond know them as Lady Beatles.


  26. I checked the label on our “Garden Ladies” (they spelled it Garden Ladys) and ours are the common Lady Bugs-home-use variety, very friendly, non-biting (at least humans) bugs.

  27. Hi Marylin,
    You painted a beautiful word picture. I imagined all of those ladybugs in flight and on you. Such wonderful memories too with your mom and the “friend” you brought indoors. Loved it! Oh, and the adorable photo of Gannon and Grace with their great-grandma’s portrait.
    Tracy 🙂

    • Thanks, Tracy. You’re the first to comment on the picture of much-younger Grace and Gannon with their great-great-grandmother Grace’s portrait. It’s your artist’s eye! I’m glad you noticed it.

  28. Marylin, what a lovely memory you have shared with us. You have reminded me of one of mine concerning ladybugs. My elderly neighbor, I had in childhood, taught me the little verse.

    Blessings ~ Wendy

    • I never was sure what the full verse meant, Wendy: “Lady Bug, Lady Bug, fly away home. Your house is on fire and your babies will burn.” I thought it was grim and really hoped we understood it wrong (especially now, with all the fires around us in Colorado again, for the second year).
      But the memories of releasing Lady Bugs are happy ones.

      • The version I was taught was: Lady bug, lady bug fly away home. Your house is on fire, and your children are alone. ~ A bit more sanitized 😉 This is the version I taught my children. Now I am curious as to the meaning too?

      • Your version is less threatening, but still a troubling verse for children (and even adults). Especially this week while Colorado homes are burning. It’s amazing how nursery rhymes come back to us.

  29. winsomebella

    Thinking of you and those affected directly and indirectly by the fire. Be safe. I hope the lady bugs did the trick :-).

    • I hope so, too. The trees seem happier having the Lady Bugs crawling around, helping fight aphids.
      The fire has finally been controlled. but it destroyed over 500 homes and broke many heart. Thanks for you concern.

  30. What a beautiful memory, Marilyn. I also remember loving – and releasing – Lady Bugs. Once, I even employed them to rid our plants of aphids. I’m not sure how many remained behind to do the job, but I don’t recall any more problems with aphids.

    These experiences are a link to our past that do stay with us forever.

    • I’m a believer in Lady Bugs, Judy. If you invited them and released them in your yard, they stepped up and battled your aphids. And you’re right, these are the experiences we remember forever.

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