Wednesday, April 26, 2006


(The artwork is from this website:
which is well worth a visit and much more meaningful than anything I have to say.)

I don't kill bugs. I don't step on ants, swat flies, crush beetles, burn spiders, or spray wasps. At least, I try not to. Some people think this is strange.

If you kill a bug or two, here or there, I'm not going to call out some sort of PETA-style group of insect lovers to come to your home and hold a protest. I am not a Jain. I can understand where killing bugs is sometimes useful or even necessary. I have killed quite a few of them in my day. I'm not proud of it, though.

The thing is that I never kill a bug just because the bug is there. If a bug is doing something to harm me, I will act appropriately. A mosquito, for instance, may be drilling into my arm. I feel no compunction about killing that mosquito. She started it. Some folks, however, go out of their way to squash anything they see moving. An ant is walking around somewhere, not doing anyone any harm, just thinking whatever an ant thinks ("I'm an ant. There's a leaf. I'm gonna pick up that leaf and drag it home. It'll make a nice end table.") and one of these folks will actually take two or three steps to the left in order to end that ant's life.

A person just snuffs another living creature for no reason? That, my friends, is not a nice person. As soon as I see someone do something like that, I know that person is not to be completely trusted. Where does that person draw the line? At what point will he or she decide that a life is important enough to not be arbitrarily ended at his or her whim? I'm not sticking around to find out.

Some of you are no doubt thinking, "Hey, Jim, lighten up. It's just an ant." Maybe so. Maybe some creatures are less significant than others in the larger scheme of things. I'm certainly not entirely innocent of killing things for my own pleasure. I'm not a vegetarian. Maybe there is, in the long run, nothing morally wrong with stomping an anthill. I eat cows and chickens and pigs and fish, among other things. However, I don't see a chicken and automatically think about bringing a boot down on it's head. So, I'm willing to cut you some slack if you eat the bugs you kill, OK?

Where do you draw the line? Where is your line of demarcation between insignificant enough to squish and significant enough to show some respect as a living thing?

I think most people - at least, those willing to entertain such thoughts and not limited in their mental capabilities - sooner or later realize that the small size of the creature is their main rationale for killing it. A bug finds it's way into your home and is crawling across your living room floor, so *STOMP* and no more bug. What if a sparrow finds it's way into your living room? You gonna step on it? Or are you going to try to somehow get it back outside? How about a frog? Pretty messy to stomp on a frog. How about a stray cat? Got a catswatter handy? You draw the line somewhere. Where is it?

I make every effort to remove an unwanted living thing from my home and place it outside. If it's not harming me - or someone I love - I enjoy the challenge of trying to capture it and relocate it. At those moments, I like to think of myself as an extremely small game hunter. Some of them aren't easy. Centipedes (ugh) move pretty damned fast. Flies have to be snuck up on very slowly, almost as though you were a cat pouncing on a mouse. Beetles, on the other hand, offer little challenge at all. I would say that they lay there like slugs, but thankfully I've never had to remove any slugs from my living room and I hope to hell you haven't had to, either.

(I bet you don't step on slugs; way too squishy. Ooog.)

Speaking of slugs reminds me of a particularly nasty sort of person. I'm talking about the folks who not only think nothing of killing small creatures, but who delight in finding "entertaining" ways to destroy them; the sort of person who pours salt on a slug. This is the same type who enjoys pulling wings off of flies or plucking the legs off of a daddy-long-legs spider. While I would rather not see bugs killed for no reason, as I said earlier I won't shun you for it - if you have a reasonable excuse. However, I believe these people have a special spot reserved for them in Hell. There is no moral defense for making a creature suffer needlessly.

(I also suspect there is a special place in heaven for those who go out of their way to do something nice for creatures that are seemingly unlovable or gross or downright scary. I sure hope so. I've done an awful lot of things in my life that mark up heavily on the bad side of the karma scoreboard. I can use the help.)

There's not a heck of a lot else to say here, I suppose. Either you agree with me or not. I'll finish up by telling you about a gift my Mom bought me a couple of birthdays back.

My Mom knows how I feel about bugs, of course. I think she basically agrees, although she also may not be averse to destroying, say, a cockroach here or there. However, respecting my feelings about this, she bought me a very cool tool called a Bug Buddy. It is one of the most marvelous gifts I've ever received and one of the most useful.

The great thing about this tool is that you can catch the bugs easily, without harming them, and then release them at your leisure. I used to catch bugs in all sorts of improvised contraptions and the problem was that they usually took both hands to hold the bug in (an index card over the top of a glass, for instance) so I had to not only release the bug ASAP, so as to regain the use of my hands, but I also had to find some way to keep the bug in captivity using only one hand while I maneuvered the door open, and then the screen door, and so on. With the Bug Buddy, it's a one-handed operation to catch the bug and if I want to study it for a while (which I don't normally want to do, but I'm just saying) I can. When I go to bring the creepy-crawly outside, I can open the door with no worries about doing a buggy balancing act. Just a marvelous thing to have around if you are in the habit of relocating insects (or you've been so moved by my prose that you're going to start today.)

"He wouldn't even harm a fly." I could think of worse things to have as my epithet.


Unknown said...

I'm with you Suldog - I try to catch and release. I also give biting mosquitos the death penalty.

Anonymous said...

The apple does not fall far from the family tree here. I also do mnot step on ants etc. Many people have laughed at this over the years, but who cares. It would be funny if God were a roach.

Suldog said...

Great line! I wish I'd thought of it.

Stu said...

I was raised Jewish (and still am). We are taught to be nice to every person, everywhere, because you never know if they might be The Messiah.

Well, why not treat all creatures this way? So that's what I do, I take no life intentionally, no matter how small. This means that my backyard is inhabited by several families of snails (maybe thirty total)...

My daughter does not like bugs, especially spiders. The Bug Buddy is now on my shopping list. Thanks Sully!

Unknown said...

We're a bug friendly house! We appreciate all living creatures including bugs. We just prefer them outside the house. I actually use two paper cups to do my capture and the release!
btw, beautiful art!

Ms. A said...

I prefer them outside, too!