If you’re on Twitter and follow one of my favourite authors, Robert Macfarlane, you’ll know that he tweets a ‘word of the day’. Yesterday’s was ‘Bishy-barnabee’, a vernacular name for the ladybird used by folk who live in the English county of Norfolk. I adore these common names – they are often old, come from a time when folk paid more attention to the natural world, observing the habits and customs of the creatures around them, or they named creatures after concepts and ideas that were important to them. Macfarlane listed other ladybird names too: cushcow, goldie-bird, red-sodger, and kingcollawa. In Fauna Britannica, Stefan Buczacki lists even more: as well as bishie barni-bee, he has bishop barnabee, bishop is burning, bishop that burneth (all from Norfolk); clock-o’clay and cow lady (from Yorkshire); God Almighty’s cow, God’s little cow and King Galowa (from Scotland); and ladycow, lady fly, lady lanners, Mary gold and sodger (from Northumberland). I’m sure there are many many more.
Here is a selection of the Bishy-barnabees I have photographed (using the mostly numerical descriptions we more commonly use these days: two 7-spots, a 14-spot, an 18-spot, a 22-spot, 3 Harlequins and an Orange).