At the end of the recent sci-fi movie, Ender’s Game, Ender Wiggin mourns his role of decimating an entire insect species. His remorse is genuine, as he fears he won’t be able to live with his speciocide. The movie, however, is more relevant than you might think.
Why not smash?
Flattening pesky insects might not seem like a big deal, but you could be eradicating an entire species with the stomp of a foot. Clearly, entomophobics everywhere might find this as a blessing. But take a lesson from Ender, the reason that you should catch that bug and examine it before you put it back on the floor and squash it, is that the loss of a specific bug population could be dangerous to an ecosystem. For instance, exterminating a major pollinator in your yard could have negative side effects on a nearby farmer’s vegetable crop. Also, some bugs eat other bugs, keeping infestations at bay.
Hundreds of insect species are in danger of extinction. Here are five examples of some creepy crawlies that you should let alone rather than smash.
1) Blackburn’s Sphinx Moth
There are a few nightmarish horror movies that have used moths to scare the tears right out of you. Why? Because moths are freakin’ NASTY, that’s why! Blackburn’s Sphinx Moth is no exception. Typically found in Hawaii and featuring a 5-inch wingspan, it flits around like a small, (disgusting) dusty bird. But moths have feelings too. This particular moth is on the endangered species list since its food supply is disappearing. Also, non-indigenous ants and parasitic wasps have been gobbling up the caterpillar stage. Up until 1984, they were thought to be extinct. Luckily, a small populations of survivors were rediscovered in a lowland on east Maui. Conservationists are now nursing this bug back from the brink.
2) American Burying Beetle
This beetle lives up to his name and spends its days burying. Burying what? Well, things we don’t want to see anyway—DEAD things. They drag carcasses of small birds and rodents underground to feed to their young. They are nature’s garbage man. Once found in great numbers in all 50 states, it is now rare, endangered, and only found in six states. So watch your step in those states, besides, there’s nothing more icky than the sticky crunch of a beetle being smashed. Save the trash collector beetle!
3) Spruce-fir Moss Spider
Arachnophobia is one of the most common phobias. Devilish, eight-legged fiends from the underworld, coming to bite you in your sleep, are how many people see spiders. The Spruce-fir Moss Spider is not exempt from this nightmare; it looks like a mini tarantula and IS as freaky as they come. Unfortunately, this spider is disappearing with the Fraser Fir trees that create the right mossy environment for this endangered spider. (Listed as endangered since 1995)
4) Tiger Beetle
These delicate looking, long legged beetles are known for their speed and aggressive predatory habits. They can run at a speed of 5.4 MPH, which relative to it’s body size, is the equivalent to a human running 480 MPH. Pretty amazing! They spend their days in sand dunes and lake beds and as far as beetles go, are rather entertaining to watch. All US varieties of this speedster have been on the endangered list since the 1990’s.
5) Great Raft Spider
This spider looks about like it sounds—like a bloated, raft shaped tarantula, skimming the water on puffy, water-walking legs. Native to Europe, you may never encounter one since they are now extremely rare and, you guessed it, in danger of becoming extinct. However, you can agree, the thought of a relaxing fishing afternoon being interrupted by waterskiing, look-a-like tarantulas would be enough temptation for anyone to grab stick and knock it lifeless. Though like all these incredible bugs before, resist this urge. Spiders are vital at keeping fly populations in check.
Before stomping on and decimating an bug in your area, check to make sure it isn’t an endangered species that will be totally wiped off this planet forever. No one wants that on their conscience, even if it is a bug.