Bugs

A Bug’s Life: making man miserable since 1968.
They say that if you add up the masses of everyone on earth, insects outweigh humans 12 to 1. That’s enough to make you sleep itchier.

What are these strange small creatures that haunt us so?

This week, we are going to take a close look at creepy crawlies, focusing mainly on the household pets that no one wanted.

Yikes! Stripes!
Bees seem to be one of our innate fears. When a bee buzzes by, close to your face, you cannot help but shudder away in a way that you would not do for an ordinary house-fly. In general, bees can cause a painful sting, but are not actually all that dangerous.

The greatest danger, in fact, when people and bees come into contact, is the human body. Many people find out the hard way that they are severely allergic to bees. This means that when they are stung, rather than a painful bump, the allergic person can swell up and go into anaphylactic shock, which is basically a rapid, meticulous shut-down of all of the bodily systems, which causes you to itch from the inside and puff up like a (really ugly) balloon. Bee-allergic people carry an epi-pen, a medical syringe filled with adrenaline, carried, ironically, in a yellow and black case.

“Killer Bees,” or Africanized bees bred for honey in Brazil, have stings no more deadly than normal honey bees, they are just more aggressive in defending their hives, and thus more bees will sting you.

Bees leave their stinger in your body and are only able to sting once; losing a substantial portion of their body will soon cause the bee to die. Wasps, yellow-jackets and hornets, however, have smaller barbs on their stingers than bees, and are able to remove the stinger from the skin; thus they can sting multiple times.

Wasps tend to build smaller nests in more human areas, and are considered a greater household pest than the odd bee that wanders in; a wasp in the house is an indication that there is a nest close at hand, and that there will constantly be wasps about. Although they are intimidating, wasps can actually be helpful servants, as they often kill other insects and pests (sometimes in order to use the body of the dead insect to house and nourish a larval wasp—yum!)

Arachnophobia!
Spiders are another bug (technically arachnids, not insects! Other arachnids include scorpions, mites, and ticks) that seem, despite their small size, to strike fear in the hearts of men.

In actuality, very few spiders are dangerous, and even the most feared spiders rarely attack humans, and then only when they feel that they are in danger. Even loathed black widows rarely bite, and never do without provocation. In this modern age, antivenins are readily available. In the US, there are only 1-2 spider-related deaths per year. Compare this to the number of people who die in car-crashes, or of heart disease!

Spiders are actually quite a beneficial ‘pest’ to have around. They eat insects that can spread disease (as well as less harmful insect that spread annoyance); in fact, spiders annually destroy 100 times their number in harmful insects. Spiders themselves do not spread disease, and they are food for other animals, such as birds.

In fact, in some cultures, spiders are considered good luck. Rightfully so, my friends. Rightfully so!

Here’s a cool tidbit: spiders are usually the first creature to inhabit a new island. They are so lightweight that they can be swept high up into the atmosphere, frozen, flown around the world, and dropped off on some newly hardened volcanic peak. It’s a little bit sad though when you think of how many of these flying spiders must fall to their death in the ocean.

Mozzies
One of the most loathed creatures on earth is the mosquito. Although they can actually carry diseases and thus are actually dangerous in tropical climates (they will be responsible for the deaths of1/17 of the people alive today!) , most children and adults alike are afraid that these tiny insects will give them a tiny itchy bump.

The bite doesn’t hurt like a bee-sting. And, in most parts of the world, it doesn’t do any harm. It’s just a tiny irritation caused by a light allergic reaction to the mosquito’s saliva. So why, in areas untouched by malaria and other mozzie-borne diseases, are children and adults alike so obsessed with squirting, squishing, and popping these little buzzers? ….The world may never know.

Most mosquitos feed on plant nectar, or rotting material. They are not biting you in a vampyrous blood-fest. It is actually only female mosquitos that bite, and they are using your blood o nourish their young. There, now, don’t the matronly mosquitos sound so much sweeter?

In general, it is ineffective to slap mosquitos as they are biting. The damage is already done, and, in actuality, you are probably pushing more of their spit into your skin, winning yourself, a shiny, new, bigger bite. In the unlikely case that the mosquito in question is actually carrying a disease, you are helping the little bugger to inject more blood from strangers into your system, thus endangering your own health.

Sprays tend to be ineffective. They mask your scent, but not your heat, or the carbon-dioxide on your breath, or your moisture, which are all factors in a mosquito’s ability to spot you.

The best combat against the mozzies is preventative planning. Mosquitos breed in water, and need to develop in water from egg to larva to pupa to adult. Eliminating standing water, such as rain collected in an upright bucket, or adding moz-eating fish to bodies of water will stop the mosquitos before they attack. Good luck to you!

Antz!
There are so many ants in the world, it is easy to suppose that they are the true rulers of the planet, which humans, in their large, bi-ped vanity, refuse to acknowledge.

Technically, ants are a species of wasp. Although they can bite and sting, they carry less of an aura of fear with them than other insects seem to. Perhaps this is because they are attached to the ground (or the wall), rather than floating around in the air. Humans like things that fit within our own frame of logic.

An ant-hill can be an irritating discovery, however ants are a great tool. These little sterile worker robots are nature’s vacuum cleaners, clearing away everything from crumbs and food-scraps to dead insects. Imagine a world without ants, and you must imagine a planet carpeted with a grotesque crust of death and decay.

La Cucaracha!
Cockroaches have plagued kitchens for hundreds of millions of years (okay, so there were no kitchens 280,000,000 years ago….but you get the point!

They are primitive life at it’s finest….in fact, they don’t need a brain! A cockroach can live for about a week without its head, and then it only dies because it has no mouth, and consequently no way to drink. They do not mate in the modern sense of the word—instead, the male cockroach hands the female roach a package of sperm, letting lady roach eat the protein-rich wrapping on her way to the goods.

Although few cockroaches carry diseases, they are considered to be quite a nasty pest. This is probably the consequence of their startling, gross-out appearance, and the squirmy way they dash into dark corners when spotted, as if even they feel they have something to be ashamed of.

In general, a cockroach’s presence is symptomatic of the conditions of its habitat. Cockroaches need plenty of food and water, plus shelter. If a house has cracks in the walls and floor (even as thin as a dime), crumbs and water drips on the floor and counter, or leaky pipes, roaches are liable to set-up shop
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This would be fine, except for one small detail: cockroaches are generally from tropical climates. So….when they feel cold in the middle of the night, these conniving critters are liable to crawl between the sheets in the nearest warm bed, and snuggle their shivering exoskeletons against the first warm body they find—yours!!

Now that we’re all squirming in our seats…
In this modern age, a few bugs and creepy crawlies are really nothing to be afraid of. If you live in the US or Europe, you are more likely to be struck by lightning than killed by an insect. And in all fairness, you should consider giving insects the same treatment. They may give you the shivers, but they do exist for a reason. Some, like ants and roaches, spend their days cleaning up after you. Others spend their days protecting you from other pests…. It only takes a little research to find out that any critter is indispensable.

It is easy to dismiss something that is annoying you, but dismissal to the point of ending the life is a bit extreme. Before you smash that bug you see, why not stop and consider its place in the world, and what your world would be without it.

Speaking of living without…
Unlike those of us in the privileged adult-bearing world, the characters in the tribe are forced to live without some basic commodities that make bugs tolerable. Mozzie repellant. Antivenins. Epi-pens.

For the kids in Tribeworld, some of the insects described above as harmless, can be rendered deadly. These critters that may annoy you, could very actually hurt or even kill Tribe characters. Thus it is imperative that the kids take a closer look at cleanliness. You witnessed the episodes with the rats in season one, as the Mallrats were forced to keep a cleaner kitchen. With food and water such a guarded commodity, it is unlikely that there will be standing water or rotting food about to attract or breed insects.

In addition to cleanliness, natural repellents must be explored to keep incoming critters out. A handful of sage, for example, confuses a mozzie’s sense of smell, keeping her away from potential human victims. And….during those times when nature does bite back, natural remedies must be employed by the likes of TaiSan or Pride.

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