Our Ladybug Picnic

We have a favorite little beach we frequent just north of Malibu. It’s just a 20-minute drive from home. It’s well off the proverbial “beaten path,” but, being the introverts that we are, we want to ensure that we have the place mostly to ourselves, away from boisterous people, especially those with dogs off leashes. So we usually go there in the middle of the week.

To be clear we do welcome other visitors from the animal kingdom. We love to watch the terns, seagulls, and whales carrying on about their daily business.

But this week, after we set up our little beach tent, we had a surprisingly different encounter with someone who seemed to be a little lost soul. It was a yellowish and rather rotund little ladybug.

The ladybug entered our humble shoreside habitat unceremoniously. She was just there, resting upside down in the peak of the nylon enclosure.

Sherry lifted her hand to our new friend and the tiny beetle promptly jumped atop Sherry’s finger.

“She needs a name,” I said.

“Rhonda,” said Sherry, without missing a beat.

I found the name appropriate, given we were on the beach, and the Beach Boys have a song with Rhonda in the title. But Sherry clarified the name was based on the diminutive creature’s bulbous proportions.

As we dined on left-over rhubarb pie and coffee, and as we watched the mesmerizing motion of the waves rolling in under scattered cirrus clouds, we took turns letting our six-legged acquaintance perambulate on our hands and arms. We asked Rhonda what she was doing in such a decidely unladybug-like place. Not surprisingly, she didn’t answer.

Homeward bound

“We should take her back to the house,” I said. But this pronouncement was a mere formality. Sherry had, I knew, already made an unspoken, unilateral decision regarding this matter. I knew this because there are two creatures in the animal kingdom for which my spouse has no use: spiders and aphids.

We shall leave the story about spiders for another day. But as for aphids, well they are the destroyer of many plants and Sherry loves her garden. And ladybugs, as any good gardener knows, eat aphids for a living. Sherry had already made up her mind to have Rhonda (if I may paraphrase the chorus of that Beach Boys song) help us get the aphids out of our life.

Whether Rhonda enjoyed the ride home from the beach or not, we do not know. But Sherry immediately took Rhonda to a new strawberry plant on our patio, and, for a few days, she did seem to enjoy her new environs. But after that, she disappeared without so much as a goodbye.

We miss Rhonda already. But we’re hoping that she (and we think it’s a “she” because lady ladybugs are bigger than their male counterparts) left us a present in the form of tiny ladybug eggs that will carry on her legacy. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll have the opportunity to count, à la Sesame Street, 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12 ladybugs at the ladybug picnic.

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