A Bug in Your Ear

… It is not a sentimental but a grimly literal fact that unless we share this terrestrial globe with creatures other than ourselves, we shall not be able to live on it for long.

                                ~ Joseph Wood Krutch

“The truth is that we need invertebrates, but they don’t need us. If human beings were to disappear tomorrow, the world would go on with little change … But if invertebrates were to disappear, I doubt that the human species could last more than a few months … The Earth would rot.”

                                ~ E.O. Wilson

Our kitchen has tall windows across one wall and French doors on each side wall, most of which are open during the summer (since we have no air conditioning). We often get various flying critters inside that try unsuccessfully to get out through the screens over the windows. Hummingbirds are problematic, since they will fly up against the ceiling and are hard to herd out. Other birds seem to avoid coming in, except for the sharp-shinned hawk that mistook a window ornament for prey and significantly disrupted our breakfast one morning.

We do get a wide array of flying insects, though. Bees, wasps, moths, flies of various kinds, mosquitoes here and there, and occasionally a butterfly attracted to a flowering houseplant. Most can be herded out, but I capture the bees and wasps to release them outside. The flies and mosquitoes are usually swatted and then drop into the window sill where the spiders hide. Since the spiders catch their share of the small insects on their own, I like to reward them with a special treat whenever I can.

Contrary to what one of my friends (you know who you are) thinks, spiders are good guys to have around. Entomologist Matt Bertone explains, “People like to think of their dwellings as safely insulated from the outside world, but many types of spiders can be found inside. Some are accidentally trapped, while others are short-term visitors. Some species even enjoy the great indoors, where they happily live out their lives and make more spiders. These arachnids are usually secretive, and almost all you meet are neither aggressive nor dangerous. And they may be providing services like eating pests — some even eat other spiders.”

Moths and butterflies are pretty easy to herd or just capture in cupped hands. Of course, we are more careful around the bees and wasps that get in so we use a glass and card to trap them. I always worry that they’ll be mad when released, and will come back and sting me. However, that’s never happened.

Treehugger’s Melissa Breyer reports on our stinging friends, “Now to be fair, bees do make honey, which is great for PR. Meanwhile, wasps have long been cast as villains … and can be grumpy … and have scary names … and can pack a prodigious punch when they sting. But still, they matter, and in fact they matter a lot.”

“While most wasp species are comprised of solitary types, the social species have a dramatic impact on insect populations. A single nest provides a windfall of ecosystem services, taking out tremendous numbers of spiders, millipedes and crop-chomping insects …”

Wasps “… provide valuable, natural pest control to the agricultural sector — with their hunger for pests like caterpillars, aphids and whiteflies, without them, global food security might be a lot less secure … And while they are generalist predators, they are specialist pollinators.”

Yessinia Funes quotes Professor Doug Tallamy, “We’ve been messing up ecosystems for an awfully long time … Climate change is one of the most difficult to reverse, but there are a number of easy fixes … reducing light pollution could be a quick, affordable way to start addressing this problem. And it’s something anyone can do. Planting native flora and letting your lawn grow wild are two more easy actions to take if you care about insects. And you should because without them, we’re done.”

We have an insect-friendly yard, avoid pesticides, and enjoy the chaos of our lawn and gardens. We don’t squish the spiders we see in the house, though we do mostly remove the cobwebs, at least on occasion or over our bed. It’s not a perfect approach, but every little bit we can do helps.

“The human race is challenged more than ever before to demonstrate our mastery, not over nature but of ourselves.”

                                ~ Rachel Carson

Additional information:

Matt Bertone, Should I Kill Spiders In My Home? An Entomologist Explains Why Not To, May 16, 2018, The Conversation

Melissa Breyer, Why We Should Learn to Love Wasps, Updated October 11, 2018, TreeHugger

Yessenia Funes, The ‘Insect Apocalypse’ Might Not be as Hopeless as We Thought, 4/23/20, Gizmodo

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