The History of Ladybug Ladybug


Don’t you love learning about the interesting histories behind children’s rhymes? The popular rhyme, Ladybug Ladybug that is sung by children when a ladybug lands on them is surely not going to disappoint you. This rhyme has fascinating origins that link it to Catholic history, farming lure, and perhaps even The Great Fire of London in 1666.

The precise history of this popular rhyme is not known exactly. Historians do not know who the original rhyme was written by, or when. It is known that the rhyme originated in England, where ladybugs were called “lady birds“. This is tied to the Catholic icon “Our Lady“. It is speculated that this rhyme was called out as a chant to Catholics who were holding mass in fields against the laws of the time. Because they were in great danger because of their illegal activities, the rhyme could be used as a warning call that was in code, so that no one else would know what message was actually being conveyed.

An older version of this nursery rhyme goes, “Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home. Your house is on fire and your children are gone”. An updated version of this classic nursery rhyme, written by Helen Ferris in 1957, is less alarming. She changed the lines to say, “Ladybug, ladybug fly away home. The field mice has gone to her nest,” and on from there without the warning from fire.

The ties between the ladybug and the fire could also come from the idea that ladybugs are helpful for keeping harmful pests from crops. Farmers who burned their crops yearly may have shouted this rhyme out before lighting the fields on fire so that the benevolent ladybugs would have a chance to get away. This points to the idea that this rhyme was written about a farming tradition. It is possible that it was originally written about Catholic mass but then later transformed in meaning to be about farming and the helpful role of the ladybugs in farming.

An additional theory speculates that Ladybug Ladybug was written about The Great Fire of London in 1666. The lyrics of the rhyme seem to support this hypothesis. Some versions of the rhyme include the lines, “your house is on fire/ your children shall roam/ except for little Nan/ who sits in her pan.” It is amazing that the rhyme that children sing today in a playful way may have been about a dangerous fire! The rhyme is used today in a way that is playful. Ladybugs are seen as good luck and children often wait a few moments before lightly blowing on them and telling them to “fly away home.” The sweet and gentle treatment of the ladybugs is a testament to their reputation as lucky and benevolent creatures.