The Insect Isle

Japan loves bugs, or at least the little boys do, which is great since I find them fascinating and encourage the kids to investigate nearly every insect they come across. There is a whole culture and industry built around finding, collecting, and observing insects. It is made easy when nearly every home store has an entire aisle devoted to insect collecting. Even the 100 yen store has a dazzling array of nets, tanks, substrates, and food jellies. 

You can even pick yourself up some adult rhinoceros beetles if you don't want to go out and collect your own.

And here is where I'm going to go on a bit of a rant: I believe that the fear and disgust of insects and arachnids is a completely learned behaviour that children, especially girls, have forced upon them. I'm sure a sort of wariness is an innate human response, but for most children that are really afraid of insects you don't have to look very much farther than their parents to see where they picked up that attitude. Planting and nurturing extreme phobias and irrational hatred in your children seems pretty cruel to me. We are grossly outnumbered by bugs on this planet so we might as well try to embrace it and reduce the unnecessary stress their lives. 

A face only a mother could love
I want my children to grow up with a relentless curiosity, love, and respect for the natural world instead of becoming adults who turn into a panicky mess at the sight of a spider or cockroach. I make a point to show them photos of insects they shouldn't try to pick up, like mukade and suzumebachi, but always explain that insects don't hurt us because they are cruel or vicious, but because they are protecting themselves or that it is part of their life cycle. I don't always love it when William shoves a handful of rhinoceros beetle grubs 1 cm from my eyes but I push down my initial revulsion and try to view them through the eyes of a child. Cute little bug babies and a tangible way to discover all the other creatures with which we share this planet.

Maybe you agree with me or don't at all and need more convincing, but either way I encourage you to read one of my favourite books, My Family and Other Animals, by Gerald Durrell. There is also a  fantastic movie adaptation that came out in 2005. But don't take my word for it...


Katherine Leary said...

I think this is a terrific stance on the issue of insect education. As a landscaper, my own threshold for bug tolerance has gone through the roof. They are no longer "icky" because I understand firsthand how important they are. Several months back, I was literally driving down the highway after inspecting a construction project when I felt it - the tell-tale wiggle of insect parts - on the back of my head. 70 MPH is no time to have a total meltdown. I reached back, pulled off a giant cockroach, rolled down the window, and pitched it. Freakout? Nah. They're just bugs. If I ever have a child, I hope to teach him or her the importance of insects the way you're doing for your kids.

Laura said...

Wow! You are amazing! Cockroaches in Texas can get pretty huge. I'd like to think I could handle it as well as you if I was in a similar situation (which I never hope to be!). We see cockroaches occasionally here in the summertime. I usually only see the nearly black Oriental cockroach though. I killed a German cockroach once but I think they are pretty rare. The funny thing is, where Dustin comes from in Canada, there are no cockroaches. Before coming to Japan, he had only ever seen a tank of Madagascar hissing cockroaches at the zoo. It has taken him three years to not shriek like a little girl at the sight of a cockroach. Okay, maybe it wasn't that bad but he has come a long way!