The Coast News Group
Courtesy photo
Columns Community News Small Talk

Small Talk: Bugging out

So I bought some bugs.

I know. I was welcome to drop by your backyard and take all the bugs I wanted for free. However, while I respect the insect’s place in our ecosystem, I prefer them dead and pinned to a board.

My elementary school received a loaner display of bugs under glass from another school in the district, and the kids were mostly delighted and fascinated. It made me crazy though, because those bugs had no identification, and hard as we tried, we couldn’t find what many of them were.

That was my cue to scour the internet for a similar, fresher collection, with at least the phylum and subphyllum included. It was harder than I thought to find an affordable set. I had to go all the way to Thailand, but the bugs arrived in a timely fashion.

Parents, teachers and youngsters alike are truly enthusiastic about having this collection on display, and love discussing which is what. I couldn’t resist hunting down the common name and home country for most of them, because that’s what I want to know when I see a bug. The collection includes a gorgeous, huge, five-horned rhinoceros beetle, an elephant beetle, a toe-biter (water bug), assorted other beetles, an Asian tarantula and a big, black scorpion.  

The most entertaining aspect of the arrival of this new display is the checkered reactions of the kids. I have been smiling for days. Now, I don’t take pleasure in having a child refuse to even approach the area of the desk where they are displayed. But it does make me chuckle to see their machinations to avoid proximity. I had the bugs right by my checkout area one day and one fourth-grader simply could not, would not get close enough to check out her book. I remedied that, but she remained horrified. I truly hope she has a parent who is nonplussed by bugs, to get that spider out of her bedroom.

I could rent myself out for that job. It’s not my favorite pastime but I get very militant when a live insect foolishly breaches the line between indoors and outdoors. I will leave them to their crawly, skittering, web-building, biting business outside (with the absolute exception of black widows), but the minute they cross that threshold, they are likely to end up squashed.

If they are dead and under glass, however, I get very brave. I do understand irrational fears, though. Don’t ask me to go to the top of any high precipice and look down and don’t even mention roller coasters. It will never happen. But bugs, I can handle. And the distress of one or two is far outbalanced by the shining eyes of most of the youngsters. It is glorious to know that so many of today’s kids find nature and science completely captivating. I credit the parents, largely, though some are born with it — like my big brother. I will never forget the day he called me into his room and insisted I block the other end of the dresser, in case the escaped tarantula should run that way. At the age of 16, I firmly declined. I now know, however, that tarantulas are really pussy cats, unless you sit or step on them.

So with the hope that the collector found all of these bugs in our collection already expired from old age, I will continue to enjoy exposing the young’ns to one more marvel of our world.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer who will never love a mosquito. Contact her at [email protected]