For too many of us, the very thought of a cockroach sends shivers across our collective spines. They are the bugs of nightmares, the ultimate creepy-crawly, winged monstrosities, with whip-like antennae leering at you. We look at them with fear and revulsion. A ‘roach (or what looked like one) flew by me, landing two feet away, as I was walking back home last night, scaring the shit out of me.
But our dislike of little critters goes far beyond just ‘roaches. A lot of us are disgusted, mildly afraid or absolutely terrified of a whole range of insects (particularly spiders, jumping locusts and the like) through small reptiles like our friendly neighborhood gecko lizard.
I can understand why some of us are scared of ‘roaches. They may be the ultimate survival machines, eating and living off anything, but they’re creepy, fly about suddenly, as if to exclusively startle, enter food boxes and crap on food (and spread a bunch of diseases), they are major pests, AND they’re just darn ugly (though if your house has ‘roaches, you’d better start fixing your drains and cleaning your house).
But why are we scared of spiders or lizards? They serve critical roles as insect predators. They’re the good guys, and hunt down and eat pesky flies, mosquitoes and even small ‘roaches. A lizard, over the course of a lifetime, is going to eat many times its own body weight worth of pesky or harmful insects. Isn’t that a good thing? Most spiders that we find in our houses don’t bite (I mean, how often will we find a tarantula in our houses?), and almost all lizards are rather harmless, and usually terrified of us. And I’m not even going to get into our irrational fear of bats and the like.
So, why do we still fear them?
More importantly, how can we get rid of our fear and revulsion for them, especially since we know that they’re harmless, and are actually doing some good? And how do we teach our kids not to be scared of them?