A kinky little thing called insect love

“Insects seem like they do everything that people do. They meet, they mate, they fight, they break up. And they do so with what looks like love or animosity. But what drives their behaviors is really different than what drives our own, and that difference can be really illuminating”

Marlene Zuk, evolutionary biologist/ecologist, spoke about insect behaviour in a TED Talk episode called What We Can Learn From The Kinky Sex Lives Of Insects. She deconstructed their mating rituals and drew intriguing conclusions about our own. I wish I saw insects the way she did. I can only hope that it dawns on me, one day, just how spectacular and adorable they are.

As a frequenter to hill-stations, insects are regular bed-mates of mine. We do weird stuff to each other at night. I accidentally crush them. They indiscriminately bite me. We can be kinky like that.

In any other circumstances, I let them be. They return the favour too. Sometimes I get curious and stare at them for a long time, inferring half-truths about the universe.

In the past, we shared a far more tumultuous relationship.

When I was about 10 years old, I went through a murderous phase. I used to beat up houseflies with a broomstick. It was unnerving the kind of effort I put in to make sure I didn’t kill them. I just wanted to injure them. Then I fed them to red ants. I took some pleasure in bearing witness to this. Some kids ripped the wings off dragonflies. I tortured houseflies.

Over the next decade I developed an acute fear of cockroaches and millipedes. I was bitten by more wasps and bees than I can count. And I turned into a child victim of domestic abuse around insects, no matter their shapes or sizes. I accepted them only because I was frightened.

I cowered in the corner, and kept an eye on them, hoping that they would take my non-confrontational stance as peace offerings.

Even though I’m a lot more comfortable with them now, I have not yet come to terms with how amazing they are. And how crucial the little things they do are to the basic functioning of the universe. Cockroaches continue to frighten me.

Shannon, one of my favourite bloggers, writes beautifully and intelligently about insects (and birds too). She has gone a long way to bring me closer to them. But it is a learning process. Hopefully, it will be one that leads me to photograph cockroaches and write poetry about them.

At the very least, I want to keep calm and feel the love.

Painted Grasshopper, Chennai

Please don’t crawl
over my skin,
or buy real estate
in my hair; there’s too
much love at stake, and
this is my burden to bear

(Photographs: Munnar, Vagamon, Kodaikanal, Chennai, Nellore)

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38 comments

  1. If I can get just one person on the planet to switch from fear and loathing to love and respect of the cockroach, then I’ve done my job! Thank you for linking to my post, Christy. However, I would be surprised to see a huge many of commenters on this subject. I’m a bit of a weirdo, as you know. 😀

    Beautiful post. It is a journey to be sure; I wasn’t always enamored with those who carry their skeletons on their outsides. Like a good curry is to the palette, insects are an acquired taste for the soul.

    Should the baseline of animals be extended to include not only insects, but the creepy arachnids as well (camel spiders…gasp!!), the result would be a wider net of compassion thrown in general. Myopic views — such as choosing one race of human over another, males over females — easily forget the gazillion others who share our spaces. We are all inextricably linked together.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You say “weirdo”, I say “human” Not a lot of us are human to such a degree. I am hungrily glad for the Shannons of this planet.

      “Acquired taste for the soul” – Exactly so. But I hope that we can at least lose our inhibitions about them.

      “We are all inextricably linked together” – clink A toast to camel spiders (woaw) and the gazillion others!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I just watched the TED Talk. Loved it!! Thank you for sharing. And thinking of the dragonfly’s ‘swiss army life like penis with all its tools sticking out’ and its ultimate function (ouch), I am sooooo glad to have the human’s boring sex life. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Interesting read! Personally, cockroaches and I have hardly lived together under one roof! While they seem more tolerant, I play the antagonist – fear provoking every single cell to get rid or be ridden 🙂 hope a day will come when I too learn to tolerate, accept, love and share spaces with all alike!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. For my self-professed nonchalance to all life forms, humans included, I am surprisingly tolerant of insects. Worms, not as much, though.
    Very interesting and entertaining post. Thanks for a good read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not a fan of ‘bars’ of any kind, but only because much energy (and the inherent waste of the wrapper) is put into making one. If you’re gonna eat a cricket, then EAT A CRICKET. As far as protein is concerned, the plant world is prolific. And they don’t even have legs to run away and come in their own bio-degradable packaging. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Lovely Christy as usual. Though after having offered myself to the neighborhood snake, spider, dog and other friendly creepy crawlies for a bite during childhood, I now love them from behind the safety of wordpress browsers.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Christy, snake not really sure. I was around 6 or 7 and I tried picking it up. It was quite poisonous though and by the time I returned from ICU after a week some poor snake had been lynched (some myth about if the snake died first the victim survives). The spider bite has left the biggest scar on my shoulder though. Perks of living in the foothills of “nagamalai”.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I just flipped out over the weekend seeing one inside the cottage. It flew, and I died a little. You should check out Shannon’s blog posts on insects. Really opened my eyes about why I feared them as opposed to respecting them.

      Having said that, keep your distance from cockroaches if they freak you out. They fly, for goodness sake.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. That grasshopper (or cricket or locust?) in your top photo is amazing, what a fabulous pattern and colouring. Some insects creep me out like nobody’s business, but I’m much better with many than I used to be – can hold butterflies and moths on my hand, and am not as bothered anymore by spiders providing they’re not huge. And this is astonishing as I had a really bad phobia of them when I was a child, particularly butterflies and mothes – so bad that I avoided going to see the Rolling Stones in Hyde Park, London in the late 1960s because they were letting out thousands of butterflies!

    Here’s how I think of spiders and similar small beings with 6 or 8 long legs: they are bad at dancing and they wear ballet leggings or socks – but they don’t like to show them to humans because they think we’ll laugh at them.

    Imagination. It’s good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Imagination. It’s good.”

      (Clink) A toast to hearty truths.

      Rolling Stones at the Hyde Park, woaaaw that’s some commitment to the phobia, Val. I dearly hope you got to see the boys live some other time.

      I do get it though. Nothing is worth the squeamish cries of our inner children. Nothing. Yes, even The Who.

      Thank you for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wowza is something I feel as though I need to say!

        Led Zep thrice, sheesh, lucky soul you are. Aerosmith came to India once. And their encore was “I don’t want to miss a thing”. Sigh. “Dream on” was nice though.

        Liked by 1 person

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