Great news, people! A colony of nine-spotted ladybugs has been
discovered in Amagansett, N.Y.
This uplifting story is a rich organic mixture of state pride and
resilience of nature along with American scientific pluck,
teamwork, serendipity, and bug love. In hard times we need
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 the New York State
Sadly (and somewhat embarrassingly), however, this critter 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 in addition to pesticides and habitat loss, only 90
of the native nine-spotteds have been seen in all North America in
the past decade.
But since 2000, a team of diligent Cornell University entomologists
and volunteers has maintained the search through Cornell's Lost
Ladybug Project. Searchers persisted, even when New York
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
Then, this past 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 more will be discovered.
Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public
speaker. He's also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower