14 October 2007

Meet the Beetles

Live and Let Coccinellidae

On this warm, rather springlike autumn day in Paris, we welcomed an army of ladybugs. Hundreds of them swarmed around my window. I can’t explain why they came, and they’re not telling. But I was happy to see them.

This afternoon, my visitors fell into three different varieties: red with black spots, black with red spots, and yellow with black spots. They didn’t seem much concerned with these differences: they aren’t racists. And that is only the start of any inventory of their admirable qualities.

Consider the facts. Ladybugs do not carry germs, they do not sting or bite, and they do not make irritating noises. They make excellent playmates, and they eat pesky aphids. Apart from the tendency of some to squirt yellow liquid on your fingers when you pick them up, they have no bad habits at all. Is any other creature so cheerful, industrious and attractive?

Indeed, when one considers how nice ladybugs are, one wonders whether they weren’t designed for some other, nicer planet. How did they wind up in a cesspool of savagery and vice like Earth?

I would urge my fellow man to learn a lesson from the ladybugs — but I fear we’d be wiped out instantly if we behaved as they do. We’re just not lucky enough to get away with being nice. The other animals would take advantage. Already the pigeons are giving us funny looks. They are waiting for the first sign of weakness. You can tell.

Twilight now, and the ladybugs have grown scarce in the past hour. Who can blame them? Tonight will be chilly, and winter is coming; that can’t be fun for them. And the crows around the Montmartre Cemetery, below my window, look hungry. As far as a crow is concerned, a ladybug is like an M&M with wings.

So fly away, while you can.