4 October 2008

reactions to insects

Spent today manning the Bucks Invertebrate Group stall at a family wildlife fun day for Bucks County Museum. I used a video microscope to show off insect (plus spider, centipede etc.) specimens (alive and dead), plus some quizzes and games.

Most people, and nearly all the kids, were fascinated by the insects under the microscope, but the quiz produced a range of responses. I asked people to sort a selection of insect photos into three categories: good to have in a garden ("friends"), bad to have in a garden ("foes"), or not sure/neither good nor bad. The photos included a range of species, from Garden Snail and Large White butterfly caterpillars to hoverfly and lacewing, bees and wasps, etc. I reckoned that the snail and caterpillars could reasonably be classed as "foes", but the others were neutral or good. Perhaps unsurprisingly many people (adults and children) tended to put more into the "foes" category. Wasp, ant, and often the bees as well, went straight into "foes", presumably as people couldn't get past the fact that they can sting (if you annoy them). And not at all surprisingly the lacewing and hoverfly larvae (see photo) went straight into "foes" on the grounds that people didn't know what they were and therefore assumed they must be bad.

An answer sheet was provided with some information about what the photographed insects actually did for a living, and this seemed to achieve its task of giving people a little more insight into the benefits of having insects around. But still couldn't persuade everyone that wasps were a good thing. One adult demanded to know what was the "purpose" of wasps, what good did they do, with the implication that things didn't really have a right to exist if they didn't benefit humans. However, she did eventually agree with me that perhaps other creatures had a right to live on their own terms.

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