Column, 290 words

Three Cheers for the Nine-Spotted Ladybug

Until recently, New York's official bug had vanished from the state that honored it for three decades.

Jim Hightower

Great news, people! A colony of nine-spotted ladybugs has been discovered in Amagansett, New York.

This uplifting story is a rich organic mixture of state pride and nature’s resilience, along with America’s scientific pluck, teamwork, serendipity, and bug love. In today’s hard times, we need this.

Let’s start with the bug. This ladybug is the classic Coccinellidae beetle, with exactly nine black spots on its red back.

A benevolent and delightful creature, it’s beloved by everyone from children to farmers — so beloved that it became New York State’s official insect. Sadly (and somewhat embarrassingly), however, this critter had vanished entirely from the state that honored it, with the last recorded sighting in New York 29 years ago. Apparently a victim of competition from imported Asian and European ladybug species, as well as pesticides and habitat loss, only 90 of the native nine-spotteds have been seen in all of North America in the past decade.

But since 2000, a team of diligent Cornell University entomologists and volunteers has kept up the search through Cornell’s Lost Ladybug Project. The searchers persisted, even when New York’s legislators tried in 2006 to abandon the bug that seemingly had abandoned their state. Luckily, though, legislative inertia killed that effort to replace the state insect, and the Ladybug Project kept faith and kept looking.

Then, this summer, lo and behold, a volunteer spotted one sitting pretty as you please in a patch of sunflowers on an organic farm in Amagansett. About 20 more were subsequently found on the farm amidst rows of carrots, beans, and flowers — enough for the project to establish a reproducing colony, while also building confidence that more will be discovered.

To keep up with this bit of good bug news, go to www.lostladybug.org.

Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He's also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.
Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)