Don't Bug Me

By Patty O’Byrne

The following essay was written on the June 2000 APEF exam with the broad instruction to "choose any idea or issue by your reading of any a carefully considered piece of 250-300 words." Well, Patty's essay may be 580 words, but it is nonetheless a model of conciseness, variety, subtlety and wit. If you don't think so, then you need to read it again.

The other day a bug, a spider to be precise, was murdered in my presence. Crawling majestically upon eight tiny, marvelous legs, the arachnid made its way to the corner of the room and...splat. Gone, in an instant. The comment was made: “I wish someone thirty times your size would come at you with a fly swatter” by my pro-bug friend. I myself have never liked insects, and many a spider lost its life to my accuracy with a newspaper. Yet I can’t help but begin to feel remorse: who are these bugs? Where were they going? And why does the animal with no natural predator fear them?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and it is hard to admit that there is beauty in the vermillion tones of a beetle’s skull. A chirping cricket is a tiny song bird in Japan, kept in a pretty gilt cage to soothe away tension as it rubs its legs together. The word “bug” alone has a negative connotation to it. You don’t pick on someone, you bug them. When your computer crashes, it usually has a bug. Malaria? Well, that’s spread by a bug. It is easy to understand how bugs have become so hated–they are the scapegoat of the animal kingdom. Nobody enjoys being bitten by one, and they are a marvelous medium to spread an epidemic through. Many bugs harm crops, leaving a corrosive trail through the foliage and eating the greens. They harass your house, your dog, and you. The slimy trail that so many bugs leave as their calling card is a little hard to defend as well. Surely though, to bug is not to be all bad.

Without bugs, our ecosystem would falter. The bird who lives on the hippo would have no food source. Many animals eat bugs as their prime food supply, and humans themselves have lived on grubs. The Scarab Beetle is sacred in Egypt, so why isn’t the mosquito the national bug of Canada? We have an ample supply and their presence is surely felt. Bugs are essential in breaking down waste like compost, or have even evolved for that purpose, like the dung beetle. Bugs are to blame for the spread of disease, but isn’t the opposite true? Couldn’t a bug spread a vaccine?

Where are bugs in earth’s future? With the “achievement” of Dolly the lamb, will superbugs be created in laboratories? Don’t like the neighbors? No problem. For just $39.99 you can sabotage the roses. Some bugs are pretty, some grotesque. But surely there’s room for bugs. It’s folly to explain away their usefulness on Earth. Bugs are a vital, if annoying, part of life. Then again, who envies the tiny creature with over six billion giants out to crush it?

To a bug, you are a Goliath. And the bug lost his slingshot. Besides a little irritation, the bug bears you no malice. He’s just trying to get by. When you’re tempted to step on the June Bug you found on the porch, ask yourself how would you handle it. How would it feel to be tiny and thought of as insignificant? When you run out of room in your house, sit outside and admire the ants. Their earthen labyrinth is far more practical than your split-level. So, pity the bug. Killing without just cause is bad karma, and the sure way to coming back as a dung beetle yourself.