In the world of insects, sometimes looking intimidating is enough to deter a predator. The shape and colors of insects say a lot about it’s adaptability and presence in the wild. In nature, bright colors are often a warning to stay away because of venom or poison, but this is not always the case since sometimes these merely act as decoys. Size and shape also serve to protect from and deter predators, but don’t mean that the insect is fearsome and aggressive.
To us humans, insects inspire responses ranging from revulsion to apprehension to total fear. Much of this comes from a natural dislike of bugs that crawl and buzz and fly. Since there are about 1.5 billion insects for every one of us, getting somewhat comfortable with this class of invertebrate may be important. Here are some insects whose creepy reputation outweighs their actual ability to do you harm.
These probably make the top of most lists of insects nearly everyone either actively hates, is generally revolted by, or would categorically avoid if nearby. While cockroaches are ugly and creepy looking, they don’t bite. Their only harm is the spread of bacteria, but this can be avoided in clean areas. One reason for their reputation as fearsome insects is that they are often found in large numbers and thus have the ability to truly disgust as a group.
Something about large, fast moving, flying, multi-colored insects inspires a nervous fear that we can’t overcome. Dragonflies are large and creepy looking, but totally harmless to humans. In fact, dragonflies do a lot of good by eating mosquitoes and other small destructive insects that pester you a lot more and are actually much more harmful.
These are pretty well known to be harmless to humans, but many people are afraid of contact with the garden insects. The praying mantis is quite hideous and has a fearsome disposition for smaller insects, but the worst you will get is a slight pinch by picking one up. Many a kid has even made a pet out of the praying mantis, so despite the loathsome appearance, these insects are quite docile.
These are large, stout beetles that look more intimidating than they actually are. They often have bright, metallic colored bodies and are scavengers for dung and decaying plant matter. The size and color of these beetles make them seem harmful, but they are harmless and will usually do everything they can to avoid you.
These arthropod insects can be both harmless and very deadly. For this reason, most people avoid contact with spiders. The assumption is that any spider you come across could bite you and potentially be venomous. Realistically, most spiders don’t have lethal venom and will not bite. Exercising caution is always a good idea around spiders, but the general rule is that by leaving them alone, they will leave you alone. Most spider bites result from carelessness or unintentionally getting too near a web.
Ben Vaughn writes on pest extermination in Utah and understanding insects and home infestation.