#36 - Aimless Insects

I am not a man who likes bugs. Oh, there are a few types I have a grudging respect for: Spiders seem to have a plan. My thoughts on Ladybugs are well known. Ants, I once read, make up 10% of the collective weight of all the animals on Earth, so I'm not about to go pissing them off. But can someone, anyone, please explain to me why we need to have cicadas?

Let's look at the life cycle of the cicada: They live in a larval state, feeding on tree roots for 13-17 years, then, simultaneously, and in gigantic numbers, they all hatch and fly around stupidly bashing into things, trying to mate and making an annoying sound. (Actually, that's kind of what I did as a teenager.)

But my point is... why? What purpose do they serve in the engine of the Earth?

My wife and I were on Cape Cod a couple weeks ago and as we drove down we passed through a cicada hatching. Basically, this consisted of about a million giant bugs flying around blindly at the approximate speed of paper airplanes and getting killed by cars.

When I realized that, as adults, cicadas don't even eat--that their whole goal in life appears to be making an annoying sound until they can get whacked by a truck--I began to seriously question their right to exist. I mean, I begrudgingly respect the fact that, in their little-understood ability to hatch simultaneously during the same two-week period of a 17-year gestation, they seem to have one of the same low-level superpowers I do, but overall, while there may be more malevolent insects out there, there are few more aimless.

Mosquitoes instantly spring to mind as a species we could do without. They bite and spread disease. But at least bats and birds and spiders eat mosquitoes. What the hell could eat a half-pound cicada? A condor? A wolf?

Honestly, they're just a big waste of time.

Three Other Insects That Can Take A Damn Hike
3. Green Flies – Also known as Blow Flies, Blue or Green Bottle Flies, these guys are just a case of natural overkill. If you've ever been sitting on the beach and suddenly felt like you got shot in the back or the leg, you were either just the victim of a Green Fly or have actually been shot and should seek medical attention. My case against the continued existence of these flies boils down to the fact that they're powerful far in excess of their requirements for survival. Why should a fly that bites humans need the most powerful jaws in the insect kingdom? Are they just mean? Did they originally feed on rhinoceroses before developing a taste for man? Get rid of 'em!

2. Those Clouds of Gnats - Why? Why? What purpose is served by a tiny, tiny, insect that conglomerates around the heads of animals upon which is doesn't even feed (and occasionally costs the Yankees important playoff games?) The only thing I can think of is that it's the same survival instinct that drives smaller fish to form feed balls. For instance, maybe a sparrow that's thinking about taking a pass through a cloud of yummy gnats suddenly takes a second look and thinks, "Hey! That's not a cloud of gnats! That's a human head!" But here's the thing: feed balls don't work! I've seen Blue Planet, man, and ALL those fish get eaten! There's about a .0003% chance that a fish that enters a feed ball is coming out, and that only occurs because all the sharks and tuna and sailfish were full. So, clouding gnats: Knock it off! We're on to you.

1. Palm Grubs - Okay, I admit it. This is just personal prejudice. But someone once offered me a palm grub to eat and I've never been the same. My contact with palm grubs occurred on the good ship Dawn On The Amazon II when I was cruising down the Peruvian Amazon. Before embarking, the captain, crew and passengers toured a market in the town of Iquitos where we secured provisions. Along with many tasty and enticing items, they also bought a number of things I'll call "jungle fare." Palm grubs were one of these. A palm grub is a bristly, pulsating, thumb-sized larva with a shiny black head, and the kitchen staff kept a writhing, disgusting box of them on a windowsill in the galley. My great fear was that the palm grubs would appear as an unlabeled, unrecognizable ingredient in something else--so, I'd eat a portion of casserole and the cook would pop out and say, "!Senor, guess what!?"

I was so afraid of this that I actually went into the kitchen to check that the grubs were still there before every meal. (You'll find a link to footage of my grub counting missions below.) In the end, the grubs were sliced open, stuffed with cheese and bacon, skewered and grilled. But even that delectable preparation did not allow me to eat one.

I'd love to be one of those fearless types who'll eat anything, but when it comes to bugs, I'm sad to say I'm not. I've eaten bear, boar, rat, camel, snake, camen, alligator, giant gerbil, horse, giant snail, kangaroo, reindeer and probably some things I've forgotten to list here, but looking at those grubs, I knew to a surety putting one in my mouth would make me vomit. In fact, writing about it right now is about to make me vomit.

Here's why.

If, because I don't actually know anything about the Internets, that video doesn't work, you can also find it here.

To read more of my thoughts on things that are disgusting and dangerous far in excess of their size, see this story about the violence of parasites on CNN. The piece was originally written for Mental Floss Magazine, and you can read about superheroism through surgery in that magazine here.


Lisa said...

"Actually, that's kind of what I did as a teenager."

Oh please, like this isn't still true...

Chris Connolly said...

I no longer do the noise.