why do people hate insects?




There is a whole industry devoted to killing insects. I don't understand this widespread hatred of insects. Some insects are so-called pests and some are supposedly useful to us humans, but as long as none are in plague proportions they are all part of the biodiversity needed for a healthy ecosystem.

Insects eat and are eaten and they pollinate flowers. They are so diverse it is practically meaningless to generalize about them. But I guess that's what prejudice is - it's about stereotypes and over-generalization.  Who's going to advocate for insect rights?


Robber Fly, species unknown

The insects above are one of hundreds of species of fly from the family Asilidae, commonly known as Robber Flies, or Assassin flies. I asked the experts at the Melbourne Museum if they could identify it but they said the exact species can't be determined from the photo because it doesn't show how big it is, and it doesn't have a dorsal view to look at the wings and other features. 

These flies eat other insects, and catch their prey mid-flight. They're found all over Australia, living in forests, woodlands and urban areas. They have their rather alarming name because each leg of the robber fly has a pair of strong claws that they use to catch their prey, before injecting it with a powerful poison. Enzymes help to digest the meal until all that remains is a discarded exoskeleton.

Bush Fly, probably

Another fly, another photo not good enough for exact identification of the species. Here's what Simon from the Discovery Centre at the Melbourne Museum wrote:

It could be a bush fly but it is too hard to be sure without also getting a dorsal image of the fly. It is important to be able to see the wings as the venation allows you to place in to family.

Bush flies give other flies a bad name. They breed in dung and are said to spread harmful bacteria. And there's a lot of cow dung in Australian because of the cattle industry.

Bush flies used to be very common when the weather turned warm, but there aren't so many of them now because of the Australian Dung Beetle Project. Scientists imported and released several species of dung beetles from Africa and Europe. The beetles bury the dung, depriving the flies of their breeding grounds and successfully controlling their numbers.

European Wasp

I hope scientists discover a way to control the spread of European wasps. I hate these insects and find them really scary. They are very aggressive and can sting repeatedly, unlike bees that sting you once then die. When I realized there was a wasp nest in the compost I ran away and they chased me, stinging me on the back of my legs. That was quite a few years ago but it's not something you forget.

Unlike bees, wasps don't collect pollen from trees and flowers but they're still attracted to nectar. This one is having a feast on some fennel flowers.


Dead Passionvine Hopper

Scolypopa australis, commonly known as Passionvine Hoppers, have transparent wings and elongated mouthparts that form a tube to enable them to feed by sucking up the sap of plants. They can be found on the bark of tree trunks and branches, and leaves. When you try to catch them or touch them they jump up very fast and very high. They're native to Australia and are found in urban gardens in Eastern mainland Australia and Tasmania. They are regarded as pests because they excrete honeydew that leads to the growth of black-grey mould on the cultivated and ornamental plants they frequent.

They look like a small moth but they're not moths. This one posed for me because it was dead. Alive, they're hard to photograph because they're so fast.

Live Planthopper, photo by Jeevan Jose for Wikipedia
photo by David Taft
Heat, humidity and a bit of rain means plenty of food for Redback Spiders to eat. There are a lot of them around at this time of year living in people's gardens. I haven't seen any here for a while. This one was in my friend David's garden. The female spider is tending to her egg sacs. Inside each egg sac are about 250 eggs. They won't all survive because stronger siblings eat weaker spiderlings and unhatched eggs. You've got to be careful around this spider because its bite will hurt, but they still have their place in a biodiverse ecosystem, and they help us by eating insects like mosquitos. 

Comments

  1. I appreciate the importance of insects to the biodiverse ecosystem, but I was still unhappy to find a Redback near to where my grandchildren play!
    David

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    1. I would feel the same in that in that situation. We humans are the top of the food chain, I just hope that whenever wherever possible we can share our world without killing.

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  2. These are such great points about the benefits of insects and their role in the world. I think there are many reasons humans have historically had negative thoughts about bugs. These include: misinformation, misunderstanding, harm to plants and humans, and various other reasons. Now that we know more about their roles in nature and the benefits to the planet and its ecosystems, perhaps there's hope that we'll learn to live with them. Great photos, Sue!

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    1. Thanks, Beth, I hope so too. Sometimes I feel optimistic about this, sometimes pessimistic. I wonder if there is some primal fear or hatred of insects and spiders. They are such different life forms to us, so extremely 'other' that compassion or empathy seems to be difficult for many people. When they become a source of food maybe attitudes are different.

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  3. I think it depends on whether the insect can harm us or not that tends to determine how we think of them. I can think of loads of insects that are beneficial to the planet and us humans and therefore very welcome to live in my garden with me. Even wasps are gardeners friends early in the year when they eat the caterpillars of the cabbage white butterfly. More and more people are stopping using sprays in their gardens, thank goodness and the eco system is all the better for it.

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    1. I hope you're right, Pauline. Sometimes in the supermarket I look at the shelves of insecticides and other poisons. I imagine they wouldn't be there if people didn't buy them?

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  4. We have two species of invasive alien wasp - and trained teams to eradicate them.
    Glad to hear that our dung beetles are working hard 'in foreign'.
    The only insect I am uneasy about are the mosquitoes in our new pond. Hoping for dragonfly larvae to move in. I have seen some flying.
    Our neighbour is on a mission to destroy ants. Sigh.

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    1. Neighbours are like family - we don't choose them. It's lucky if they're like minded. Good luck with getting critters to eat mosquitos and their larvae.

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  5. Your red back spider looks very similar to our black widow spider. They love to hang around old wood piles, in empty clay pots, and in many garden situations. They are venomous, but rarely cause any permanent damage.

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    1. Hi Les, Our red back spider are in the same family as your black widow spider, and I believe do have similar habits and similar venom. But they don't have the distinctive red stripe. So fascinating ... lovely to hear from you.

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  6. My philosophy is that all creatures, even the most despised insects, have a purpose and are an important part of the ecosystem. That doesn't mean I don't try to control harmful ones in my garden (which are in the great minority); it does mean I use eco-friendly methods. I hate those products that take a "nuke-em-all" approach.

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    1. I agree, Deb. I think we used to think we had to spray chemicals, but it seems like a long time ago now.

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  7. I leave the insects alone but that's because I'm not AFRAID of them. I think a lot of people try to kill them out of fear and are ignorant of their job in the universe.

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    1. Such a thought provoking comment, Linda. I guess fear is very destructive.

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  8. I don't understand either....it seems we find them pests and are ignorant about how important they are.....so kill them all....all the pests.

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    1. Hi Donna, hopefully things are changing??????????????

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  9. People are afraid of what they don't understand and they rarely have a true understanding of how vital insects are. They kill what they fear as a way of controlling their environment. It's ignorant and reactionary. :(

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  10. Unfortunately it is very difficult to eradicate pests and at the same time avoid killing the "goodies".

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    1. thanks for comment, Rick, sometimes I wonder if there are any baddies, whether they all have their place, but I guess that's being hopelessly idealistic and naive. Especially when I think about non native rats...

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  11. I share your frustration with the widespread dislike of insects. I think it is partly to do with a lack of education. I understand that some people have genuine problems - be they a dreadful reaction to bee stings or a phobia - and that is an entirely separate issue. The reaction/phobia etc issue aside, too many people seem to lump all insects together and view them at best as an irritation. Perhaps if more people understood the benefits of insects, then perhaps there would be greater tolerance.

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    1. Hi Sarah, lovely to hear from you, let's hope more people are learning the benefits - and fascination - of insects, and getting used to sharing spaces with them.

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