The Earth is almost the best planet ever. It’s stunningly gorgeous, optimally located in space, and it’s perfectly suited for its magnificent array of flora and fauna to live and thrive.
Almost the best planet ever.
Unfortunately, you can’t be the best planet ever when your clearest defining characteristic is a revolting worldwide bug infestation.
On what’s not that big a planet, there are 10 quintillion bugs, or 1.5 billion bugs for every living human, and they make up 80% of the world’s species.
What a shame.
And unlike an infested apartment or house, we can’t just move—this is our permanent situation.
Some might say I’m “overreacting” or “being a little bitch” when I say that bugs make life “basically not worth living,” but I’m not. Here’s why:
1) Bugs are tiny monsters.
Picture a large version of any other type of creature.
A large fish is still a fish. A large bird is an ostrich or something else normal. A large reptile? Alligator. A large mammal? Bear. Normal shit.
You know what’s not normal? A large insect.
You know why it’s not normal? Because a large insect would be a monster and monsters are not normal.
Imagine a fly the size of trash can or an ant the size of a park bench or a cockroach the size of a car. Is there any word you’d use to describe those things besides monster?
But because bugs are small, we’re just okay living on a planet with 10 quintillion monsters?
It’s a horror movie.
2) Bugs’ behavior is appalling.
Yes, they look like nightmares, but the main reason I and so many other reasonable people loathe bugs is because of how they behave.
Humans have elite status on this planet, and everyone seems to get that except for the insects. Unlike almost all other creatures, insects A) have no regard for a human’s personal space, B) don’t understand the concept of private property and think it’s okay to enter an indoor place uninvited, and C) apparently didn’t get the memo that humans are at the very top of the food chain, which means no one is supposed to feed on them.
If bugs just followed the rules like everyone else, they really wouldn’t be a big deal. It’s their egregious disregard for boundaries that makes them so despicable.
The problem is the boundaries. No one really hates squirrels. But if instead of staying outside where they belong, squirrels routinely ended up in your house, on your wall, on your food, and in your bed, we would all hate squirrels. If instead of being terrified of humans like they should be, squirrels regularly jumped on humans, crawled around people’s bodies while they’re sleeping, and sometimes sunk their teeth into you to suck your blood, I promise you we would all really, really hate squirrels.
3) Bugs can embarrass you.
It’s not a great situation to be a guy who’s terrified of bugs.
With another embarrassing phobia, you can usually just avoid that thing and no one has to know how faint and panic-stricken it makes you. But since, as mentioned above, bugs just do whatever the fuck they want, it’s not really up to you when you do and don’t encounter them. So a key skill of The Guy Who’s a Huge Pussy When it Comes to Bugs is to control the “initial involuntary horror reaction,” or the IIHR, which happens when you suddenly notice a large bug on or near you. An IIHR looks something like this:
When I’m alone and see a bug, I let the IIHRs fly. I think probably the most mortifying thing that could happen to me would be for someone to show everyone a video montage of every private IIHR I’ve ever had.
But when there are people around, especially girls, it’s critical to overcome the initial terrified impulse and avoid a public IIHR display. I’ve gotten pretty good at that over the years:
But sometimes a Bug Incident is so startling, violating, or overwhelmingly scary that before your conscious mind scrambles to the scene and takes control, an IIHR happens, and there’s nothing you can ever do to take it back:
4) Bugs can traumatize you.
So far, we’ve discussed the first two levels of Bug Incidents:
Level 1) The Violating Bug Incident—A bug inside your home, on the wall or floor
Level 2) The Incredibly Violating Bug Incident—A bug in your bed or on your body
But we’ve yet to broach the third and most deadly type of Bug Incident:
Level 3) The Life-Changing Bug Incident—A bug under your clothes or in your mouth
An incident like this changes you forever. For example, I have not drunk out of a water bottle with a straw since 1991.
To better understand what we’re dealing with, let’s take a look at the five categories of insect:
(During this post, I’m gonna refer to spiders and other arachnids as insects even though they’re not insects. If I didn’t do this little note, at least four people would scold me in the comments, so here you go.)
Not every insect is making the world a terrible place to live in. There’s a strict set of criteria in order for an insect to qualify as silly and end up in the only positive category:
- They stay outside
- They’re cute
- They don’t bite
- They don’t make sudden, startling movements
- They’re not interested in humans
- They’re hilarious
The inchworm is the ideal silly insect. It’s absurd, adorable, slow-moving, and nerdy. One of the few insects I have no problem touching.
Ladybugs are pulling a fast one on us. If they were black, we wouldn’t like them. They’d be icky, small beetles. But humans are a cheap audience, and dressing up like a clown has done the trick and made them likable to humans. A big strike against them is that they do have startle potential when they randomly fly, which I always seem to forget they can do.
The Pill Bug
Pill bugs are really fun to bully. Just touch a pill bug and he goes into emergency mode and curls into a hard little sphere, which you can roll around with your finger. Then when you stop, he waits a few seconds before gaining the courage to unroll and continue along with his day, at which point you repeat the process. Another icky beetle, by the way, who cheats his way into the silly category by pulling this little ball stunt to distract us from who he actually is.
He’s also not an insect, but a crustacean, something I learned just now, but I already wrote this so we’re keeping it in!
Caterpillars are amusing, self-loathing little creatures who always seem to be glum. Their immense slowness makes them very unscary (usually, not always), and they tend to stay outside.
Usually being large is a deal breaker for the silly category, but even large caterpillars manage to be unscary by being full legit cartoons.
Butterflies should be scary—it’s a huge insect that flies! But they do basically everything else right, and it just manages to work—they’re pretty, gentle, always outside, and their flapping isn’t stressful and buzzy like most insects, it’s light and delicate. The butterfly joins the ladybug and the firefly in the trio of bugs five-year-old girls have an affinity for.
I also learned recently that in the cocoon, a caterpillar doesn’t “grow wings onto its body,” but rather dissolves its whole body into a mush of cells which then reform into a butterfly. Unclear whether that’s one of those things everyone knew but me or if it’s new information to a lot of people.
An Unpleasant Insect is one that is harmless for the most part but acts and looks like an upsetting insect, with no gimmick to cover that up like the Silly Insect crowd. They don’t ruin my life, but it would still be better if they didn’t exist.
Grasshoppers are far too jumpy and startly to be considered pleasant. But they’re generally uninterested in humans or their homes, so they fit nicely in the second category.
Houseflies are not likable. They’re hideous, unfriendly, and part of their name is “house” because of how much they like being in the house with you. They also eat your food, and I found out recently that when they land on the food and don’t do anything for a few seconds, it’s because they’re throwing up on the food to get saliva on the part they’re gonna eat to start the digestive process ahead of time (good example of knowledge that you’re much better off not knowing—sorry).
The main point in their favor, and the reason they’re in this category, is that they don’t give me the willies like so many other bugs. I’m not scared of houseflies, they’re just annoying.
When someone has a bunch of ants in their home, I think people think that each of those ants smelled crumbs and so they all came for that reason. In reality, the way ants work is that one obnoxious ant came exploring, found crumbs, and then went back and told the others. So if you ever see a sole ant walking around your kitchen, end his little existence before he breaks the news to 1,000 other ants that he discovered a kitchen.
While this relatively benign category might be fitting for your normal black ant, there are other ants far more terrifying. And completely insane people who use them for unspeakable rituals.
Bees are overratedly scary. For someone who’s scared of almost all bugs, bees have never bothered me. The key with bees, and even with their more upsetting friends like wasps and hornets, is to just internalize how they’re wired—which is that they’re bored by humans, have no incentive to sting you, and that if you just ignore them, nothing bad will ever happen. The only time a bee is a dick is if he’s threatened—which only happens if you freak out when you see one. I also love when I’m with people and bees are around because it’s the one insect I act like an adult about.
If you’re interested, here’s a video of hornets doing mean things.
Upsetting insects are more than a nuisance—they actively make life worse. It annoys the shit out of me when someone acts nonchalant about any insect from here forward, because these insects are blatantly upsetting, so what’s your problem.
I hate moths—the butterfly’s disgusting, stressful cousin. You know what butterflies don’t do? They don’t do shit like this:
What an incredibly unappealing thing to do. Also, how illogical are moths that they’re single-mindedly obsessed with light and yet also nocturnal? Who in the moth world was responsible for that decision and why are they so unimpressive?
The Big Mosquito
Very unclear what the big mosquito’s deal is or what he’s doing with his life. Small mosquitos are out there being normal, destroying happiness, and this weirdo is just up there being hectic in the corner of the ceiling. It’s like a mosquito that’s 10x the normal size and 1/10th the normal IQ.
The Fruit Fly
Monday, two fruit flies. Tuesday, three fruit flies. Wednesday, 880 fruit flies.
The Upsetting Spider
Another type of person that annoys me is the one who’s like, “You should let the spiders in your house live because they kill other bugs.” SORRY, NO, I’m not going to voluntarily live with monsters because they might kill a different monster sometime if they get lucky. And what are you—a witch living in 1750? We’ve invented all kinds of advanced methods of insect control, and you’re gonna leave an insect’s lair as part of your living situation in favor of the modern methods?
Living with spiders also means that sometimes you’re going to walk into a room and suddenly there are spiderweb strands hanging off your face. When this happens, you know three things: 1) There’s a spider right near you somewhere, 2) He might be in your hair or in your collar, and 3) Your face is covered in stuff that recently came out of a spider’s ass.
Completely Unacceptable Insects
We’ve gone through some bad characters, but up to now, one thing no one has done is feed on your body. Now we get to a group of disease-carrying monsters whose goal is to land on your skin, burrow into it, and drink your blood. It’s not okay. No part of that is an okay thing.
In a life full of experiences both good and bad, the single worst part is lying in bed in the dark and hearing the high-pitched buzz of a mosquito in your ear. The sound of a flying monster two inches away, who is planning on spending the night biting your face. You flail your arm in the direction of the sound, and it stops—which means either A) he’s on a surface one foot away biding his time, or B) he’s standing somewhere on your head and you don’t realize it. If somehow you can move on from this, about 30 seconds later you hear the buzzing again. You flail your arm and it stops.
This cycle repeats itself again and again and ends with one of two outcomes:
1) You eventually fall asleep, and then he lands on you and sucks your face blood throughout the night.
2) You get the fuck out of bed, turn on the light, and spend as long as necessary walking around the room in your underwear with a magazine until you’ve killed the mosquito.
The fact that a large portion of people don’t bother going for Outcome 2 is beyond me. Why is Outcome 1 acceptable for anyone ever??
Oh just a bug that falls onto you from trees or jumps onto you from grass and then quietly bores its head and body deep into your skin. Then if you find them and ask them to leave, they refuse to let go. Could any behavior possibly be more off-putting? Who raised them? As a fun extra, they also permanently have Lyme Disease and leave you with that once you finally convince them to move on to other life pursuits by severing their head from their body.
When I was in elementary school and the nurse would have everyone in her office for lice checks, I thought nothing of it. I thought of it like checking for dandruff or something. Then one day I saw a picture like this one and realized what a louse was.
It was the most horrifying discovery since the day I saw a Sesame Street segment on milking cows and realized that milk didn’t come from some white waterfall or creamy cloud, but rather from the fleshy fingers emerging from a cow’s veiny underbrain, permanently ending my milk-drinking days at the age of six.
Given the photo above, I’m not sure why kids feel the need to get creative with cliche fears like monsters under the bed, when there are actual monsters possibly living on their head.
I’m also now wondering why I had like 40 lice checks between the ages of 5 and 13 and none since. Doesn’t seem that well thought-out.
You move and buy all new things. End of this discussion and don’t bring it up again.
Given that bugs are who they are, this final dark category could be extended to include a large number of creatures, like these three. But since you and I both need to do other things today at some point, I’ll keep it to the most prominent of the Nightmare Insects. Starting with what we can all agree is the world’s worst creature—
I’m feeling a certain way right now. It’s the way you feel when you’re looking for a picture of cockroaches and you end up for some inexplicable reason googling “cockroach infestation” and looking at images. I don’t recommend it, but if you’d like to understand what it feels like to feel how I feel right now, you can do that to find out.
Trying my best to regain my sense of self, I’ll move on by saying that one of the other things I confirmed while looking for a photo was that American cockroaches—the largest kind—do in fact fly.
Maybe it’s this new piece of knowledge—or maybe it’s the memory of a landlord telling me that every single building in New York City is infested with cockroaches and if you don’t have them in your apartment, they’re still in the walls and furnace room—or maybe it’s the fact that less than six months ago I was working late in an office in LA, wearing flip flops, when I felt something on my foot and looked down and there was a huge cockroach on the top of my bare foot and I kind of still haven’t gotten over it—but something going on in me is feeling very ready to move onto the next bug.
Quick side note: I just saw a tiny piece of lint from the couch on my wrist and jolted because writing this post has put me so on edge. Hopefully something more pleasant is coming up.
Forget the “keep your spiders” people. The site I got this picture from gives advice regarding bugs, and says the following about this science fiction horror movie alien:
What Brandon has labeled the Bug of Doom is a harmless, beneficial House Centipede. This nocturnal predator is not known to bite people, will run away when the lights are snapped on, and will eat cockroaches and other undesirable household intruders if left alone to forage.
The best thing I can compare this to is a woman calling the police because there’s a naked man in a squat on her kitchen counter staring at her with a twisted smile and the police telling her to leave the man be because he’s just staring and probably won’t touch her, and if a burglar or rapist or murderer ever breaks into the house, they’ll be so weirded out when they see the naked smiling squatting man on the counter that they’ll leave and won’t harm her.
The Nightmarish Spider
Time for the grand king of all life misery. There are a lot of scary bugs, but none could give me the feeling I’d get if I were sitting on the couch and looked over at the lamp and saw this:
Spiders are just different than other bugs—they’re in their own league of scariness, with serious separation even from the previous two creatures. We’re also out of “irrational fear” land now—that guy on the lamp is incredibly fast, can jump, and might have a bite that can kill you. There’s actual real reason to be scared.
The only thing I can think about when looking at that picture is how the hell I’d proceed. I’d probably end up slowly taking the lamp outside, but there’s a good chance that as soon as you move the lamp, he starts sprinting around the shade or jumps off and you have an experience like this:
Sorry, I know I’m putting you through a lot right now. We’re almost done.
Let’s begin our wrap-up pleasantly with the spider that’s so huge it eats birds:
And finally, the single scariest photo ever taken in mankind’s history—a tarantula and hundreds of tarantula babies.
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Three less disturbing Wait But Why animal breakdowns: