We learned it as kids, and if a ladybird landed on us, we would say the rhyme....
I found that is is a common practice in many countries.
"Ladybug, ladybug" is chanted by children when a ladybug insect lands on their person.
If the ladybug doesn't fly away of its own accord the child would gently blow it away chanting "Ladybug, Ladybug fly away home".
Also...children chant ladybug charms to provoke a response from the insect: "Traditionally the insect is set on a finger before being addressed. . . .
When the warning has been recited (and the ladybird blown upon once),
it nearly always happens that the seemingly earthbound little beetle produces wings and flies away."
One common version of this rhyme is:
Ladybug ladybug fly away home,
Your house in on fire and your children are gone,
All except one and that's little Ann,
For she crept under the frying pan.
Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home,
Your house is on fire, your children all gone,
Except little Nan, who sits in a pan,
Weaving gold laces as fast as she can.
In Medieval England farmers would set torches to the old hop (used in flavoring beer) vines after the harvest in order to clear the fields for the next planting.
This poem was sung as a warning to the ladybugs that were still crawling on the vines in search of aphids.
The ladybugs' children (larvae) could get away from the flames, but the pupae, referred to as "Nan" in some versions, were fastened to the plants and thus could not escape.
Pupae are the larvae when they have formed a cocoon and are changing into adults.
"Nan" was originally an affectionate form of the name "Ann"
(but it is now generally used as a short form of "Nancy").
In Britain ladybugs are referred to as 'ladybirds'.
Ladybird History Connection -
Gunpowder Plot Conspirators?
Farmers knew of the Ladybird's value in reducing the level of pests in their crops and it was traditional for them to cry out the rhyme before they burnt their fields following harvests
(this reduced the level of insects and pests) in deference to the helpful ladybird:
"Ladybird, ladybird fly away home,
Your house in on fire and your children are gone"
The English word ladybird is a derivative of the Catholic term " Our Lady".
The tradition of calling this rhyme was believed to have been used as a seemingly innocent warning cry to Catholic (recusants) who refused to attend Protestant services as required by the Act of Uniformity (1559 & 1662).
This law forbade priests to say Mass and forbade communicants to attend it.
Consequently Mass was held secretly in the open fields. Laymen were subject to jail and heavy fines and priests to execution.
Many priests were executed by the terrible death of being burnt alive at the stake or, even worse, being hung, drawn and quartered.
The most famous English recusants were Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot Conspirators.
The American Version of the Lyrics
It is possible that the word Ladybird was exchanged for Ladybug, in the American version of the nursery rhyme, due the word association with Firebug meaning an arsonist or pyromaniac.
The first publication date was 1865 and the word ladybird was used as opposed to ladybug.
There has been some speculation that this Nursery Rhyme originates from the time of the Great Fire of London in 1666.
Iona and Peter Opie,
scholars of British children's folklore and nursery rhymes,
have also documented ladybug (or ladybird) charms.
Fly away home,
Your house is on fire
And your children all gone;
All except one
And that's little Ann
And she has crept under
The warming pan.
(Here it's a warming pan instead of a frying pan).
Other European ladybug/ladybird charms are similar to the U.S. and British varieties.
Opie goes so far as to conclude that "the rhyme is undoubtedly a relic of something once possessed of an awful significance.
It is closely matched by incantations known in France, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, and Sweden, sometimes even to the detail of the name Ann."
With the exception of France, all of these countries' languages have roots in the Germanic language group.
Opie cites several German examples of ladybird charms.
This charm was originally recorded by Karl Simrock in his 1848 book Deutsches Kinderbuch:
Marienkäferchen, fliege weg!
Dein Häuschen brennt,
Dein Mutterchen flennt,
Dein Vater sitzt auf der Schwelle:
Flieg in Himmel aus der Hölle.
Ladybird, fly away!
Your house is burning,
Your mother is crying,
Your father sits on the threshold:
Fly into Heaven from Hell.
(yikes that's even scarier).
Hope that's not too much information.
I never heard it used as a reference to playing with matches, but maybe that 'burning their fields' bit is the basis for the idea.
As an aside, I discovered a mass hatching of ladybugs in the windowsill of the old farmhouse where I used to live.
It happened on a very sunny, bright, winter's day.
I came home to find hundreds of these colorful insects crawling all over the window.
It was very neat.
I like ladybugs.