Saturday, April 21, 2007

Lizards and ‘roaches and bugs, oh my!

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?


Anonymous said...

Fear is hardly ever rational. We fear those critters simply because we have a vague notion that they, or their bite, can be poisonous, or that they spread diseases. Or maybe because they're plain ugly. My revulsion for tiny bugs and critters was greatly enhanced after watching documentaries that showed their face parts up-close, highly magnified.

Wavefunction said...

We can teach our kids to not be scared of them by exposing them to entomology at an early age. That's what I was exposed to, and there was a time long back when I had no problem with catching and keeping all kinds of insects in pickle jars. Strangely, my affinity has disappeared, and now I am as repulsed by roaches (and many others) as anyone else :( I hope that someday I can muster up enough character to do it again

Sunil said...

witnwisdumb....I think the fear instincts have good logic behind them. Anything that *might* harm you is something you've evolved to be afraid of. But some modern human fears are completely irrational. Once you know you shouldn't be scared of something, you shouldn't. Isn't it?'ve led an amazing childhood (particularly for an Indian kid....Indian parents are paranoid). More power to you and your ilk.

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