Note: this week, no images have been illegally misappropriated from online sources. These are all original photographs. If you want to license any, IM me. Special rates for veterans and first responders.
And now, our blog post: On Trying To Be Smarter Than Bugs! “Trying” being the operative word here. This is the second in my bug series, which I didn’t know was a series until today while writing this. The thesis for this post is:
Some very important concepts can be gleaned whilst observing insects.
I recently revealed my long-awaited “Hierarchy of Bugs,” the basic tenet of which is, “no bug shall be harmed, except when I decide they should be.” Clearly, this “hierarchy” is pretty iffy. To be sure, some bugs have a much better chance of survival in this system than others, but it’s a bit random and capricious. Like God.
Most things crawling on the floor are toast. Roaches? Especially the giant ones found in warm climates and New York City? Dead. Medium sized roaches? Also dead. Tiny baby roaches? Dead, dead, dead. Silverfish? Ew, dead.
Ants are in a very iffy position. They CLEARLY can’t be in the house. Outside, they’re fine, but what if they start getting interested in something on your patio and they’re all over the place? Anyway, there are an estimated 1,000,000,000,000,000 ants on earth. That’s a million-trillion. I figure killing 10,000 or so doesn’t make much of a difference.
To sum up, ants are fine outside, until they aren’t.
Inside spiders, for the most part (sorry, you arachnophiles), dead. An effort may be made to move the less threatening Daddy Longlegs, but that’s about it. You own a pet tarantula, you say?
Once again, crickets? We treat them like animals or pets. So we save them, even if they look kind of like roaches with big hind legs. Plus Jiminy and Crik-kee. Outside you go. Some moths will live, some will die. Grasshoppers go outside, and no one kills butterflies, except people who really like butterflies, who capture them and pin them to a board.
HONORABLE MENTION: the Ladybug. How cute are they? This is the one insect that almost no one will kill and most people even will let them crawl on their hand or arm. And they’re not just ladies, they’re guys too! How adorable! And that the wings are hidden under that shell that’s like a spotted M&M. Not so cute close up, but who is, really? That’s it. Just wanted to give a shout out to the ladybug.
Which takes us outside and the important concept. The idea in this Hierarchy of Bugs is that we acknowledge that insects are living things and hence have a purpose and shouldn’t be randomly executed. Bees are a good example. They can sting and be a pain in the ass at a picnic, but we need them. We’re trying to save them these days. We seem to have plenty in California, and word is, they love the hemp crop.
But even outside some other bugs, these “living things,” can wreak havoc on crops and backyards, so humans have a long history of pesticide use to keep the worms, weevils, locusts and other threats at bay.
But now we know that chemical pesticides like DDT and others cause problems of their own and are dangerous to wildlife, including birds. Humans love birds way more than we love insects. Why? I don’t know. Maybe because they eat bugs.
Fact is, birds are, for the most part, filthy. They crap all over the place, build nests out of garbage, and fly into airplane engines. But they are pretty and for the most part they stay out of the house, so we like them.
So to save the birds, we’re against chemical insecticides now (not all of us. Thanks Monsanto), and we try natural methods. This way, we can kill and feel good about it.
We like a lot of plants on the patio. They’re nice to look at and it’s good to have a few around to talk to, as they are excellent listeners and rarely complain.
I noticed many tiny flies around some of the plants. Like gnats, only they didn’t swarm or bite, they just flew around in the plant pot. I thought they were okay for plants, or even good, like earthworms.
As for the small flying insects, research proved them to be gnats, but a different kind, fungus gnats. Gross, right? They eat the fungus from decomposing organic matter in the soil. They are a nuisance. They lay eggs and then the larvae eat the roots of the plant. They don’t kill the plant, but can inhibit growth. It was time for them to go.
Going natural led me to diatomaceous earth, which is a white powder made from the exoskeletons of tiny freshwater organisms. I shit you not. It’s a fine powder with no odor that you put down on the soil, a fine layer. But of course the thing comes with this weird applicator that is basically a plastic bottle with a nozzle. You squeeze the bottle and the diatomaceous earth shoots out of the nozzle in a cloud that you can presumably control and get on the top layer of soil.
This applicator, which clearly cost 2¢ to make (when was the last time you used the ¢ symbol?) doesn’t do much. It clogs easily, and the aim is awful. It leaks near the nozzle connector, and the powder, or should I say the ground up exoskeletons of microscopic freshwater organisms, gets all over the plant, the patio and my pants.
This diatomaceous earth (great name for a band, and I claim it) is supposed to kill the larvae. And my pants. How? Well, it seems that as organic and downy soft and baby powder-ish the substance is, to a freshly hatched larva crawling around for food, it is basically a pile of razor blades. The larva is sliced to death. Nice right? Much more humane. Of course, the birds are fine with it.
Next, we have the flying adult fungus gnats. Really, there are a lot of them. So you spray the plant with Neem Oil (not sure how that works but I think it just coats the plant so it can’t be consumed by the gnats) and then, the best insect control method of all and the source of the important concept I mentioned earlier, was deploying what is known by many brand names but I call “The Yellow Sticky Wall of Death.”
This is basically like those old sticky fly tape traps you’d see hanging from the ceiling of Midwestern cafes on family road trips as a kid. This is a sheet or strip or butterfly-shaped (some manufacturer of the product in China is trying to be ironic), bright yellow material that you hang on a stick near or in the plant pot.
The fungus gnats, attracted to bright yellow for some reason only a gnat would know, land on the thing and they’re stuck. That’s it. They die of some horrible combination of starvation and just not being able to move.
Of course, this seems inhumane, but it reveals an important concept, something that can be learned by observing bugs. Stay with me here.
We only feel bad for the stuck fly because we imagine what that would be like for us if we were in that position. But we’re not bugs.
Hypothetical: you walk past a wall made of chocolate (to use one example, but money works too), and you love chocolate (or money), but you notice that there are people stuck to the wall who can’t move. Some have been there so long they are skeletons.
Question: Do you go and try to eat the chocolate? I hope not. Because if you do, you’re as dumb as a fungus gnat. You’d think one would be flying over to see the giant yellow wall, and they’d see a whole bunch of your brethren and sistren stuck on there, most dead or dying, some only shells of their former selves, and skedaddle.
Or at least say, “Hey, Bruce what’s going on? Why are you standing there?” Presumably Bruce would say “Save yourself, Steve! Run away, and tell all the others, stay away from the giant yellow wall!” But no. Steve lands also and he’s dead within an hour. And I say, good riddance to Steve, and you too, Bruce.
You see the concept? Sure we’re not bugs, but humans do stuff like this all the time. Smoking cigarettes is a clear example. We see Bruce dying over there of lung cancer but we land on it anyway. Or drugs and alcohol. Or war.
And we see it in politics. I’m not going to get political, exactly, but let’s face it, sometimes a candidate (fill in the blank) is just a big yellow wall and people land on it without checking in with Bruce and then they’re stuck and the whole damn colony dies.
That’s about it for today. What have we learned? Well, we learned the my hierarchy is iffy. We learned that bugs are dumb, but they don’t seem to have the same processing capabilities that humans do, so while they’re stupidity is excusable, ours isn’t.
Take a deep breath and have a great week everybody!