August 14, 2016

"I was looking at a butterfly today and thinking: Why do we love these things more than a flying cockroach?"

"What if the cockroach had really large wings? No, that would make it even more disgusting! What if the very large wings had some pretty colors? Oh, then we would love it! Or... not. What do you think? A butterfly-looking insect that nested inside the walls and flew around indoors and left teeny tiny turds on the counter... we'd hate that too, right? Why do indoorsy insects look so drab? So we don't kill them. What an impossible evolutionary road it would be to tart up sufficiently that we'd refrain from smushing them. Drab is the way to go, for the lowly cockroach. And come to think of it, refrain from flying. That will only activate your antagonists."

A meditation, posted by me, at Facebook, a propos of a news story, "It's So Hot Out Cockroaches Might Start Flying in NYC/All American cockroaches have wings and the ability to take flight, but don't typically do so unless they're in humid climates."

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20 comments:

Paddy O said...

"It's So Hot Out Cockroaches Might Start Flying in NYC/All American cockroaches have wings and the ability to take flight, but don't typically do so unless they're in humid climates."

But where will Hillary fly to?

Schorsch said...

Excellent meditation on insect politics. I'm here, though, to fact check the article, from an entomological perpective. Roaches need more than a hot steamy summer to start flying. They need consistent hot conditions throughout their roachy lives to develop the muscles and nerve circuitry to fly. An earthbound adult roach will always remain so. (I worked in one of the labs that discovered this.)

Drew W said...

I had no idea heat and humidity played a role in cockroaches flying -- although I think it might be better described as flicking from one place to another. I was watching TV in a dark room in an apartment in Manhattan, and a water bug (colloquial name for a really big cockroach) flicked itself onto my shoulder. I figured out what had happened, to my horror, and turned on the lights to hunt it down, but I think it ultimately got away.

Unknown said...

So is Trump the cockroach who flew?

Kate said...

No, no, no, no, no. Cockroaches are horrifying because they're fast, agile, impossible to smoosh, and then, when you think you can't possibly detest them more ... they fly right at your head. They're superbugs. Butterflies, even if they lived in your house, are slow, predictable and quiescent.

I've been to cockroach land and there is no freaking way. Try flushing one and watch it swim right back at you.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Ew, wouldn't want one of those nesting in your knickers.

n.n said...

The better juxtaposition is human life before and after birth, or some selective line of viability, convenience, tolerance. Also, [class] diversity schemes that arbitrarily favor one color of human life over another.

Fritz said...

A horde of butterflies in your kitchen walking through everything, and trying to eat everything in sight would probably provoke irritation fairly quickly too, despite the pretty wings.

Nice Tiger Swallowtail. Given where you are, it might be an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail or a Canadian Tiger Swallowtail. The differences are pretty small.

Gahrie said...

News at 11:

People like pretty things and dislike ugly things...

Fernandinande said...

Gahrie said...
People like pretty things and dislike ugly things...


Why is one pretty and the other ugly?

BTW, some butterfly coloring is similar to that of bees - it's a warning (that they taste bad, to birds at least). Birds might "think" roaches are prettier.

ken in tx said...

I was quite shocked the first time a cockroach (palmetto bug) flew up in my face. That was in Alabama. So, I was not surprised when it happened to me again in the Philippines.

virgil xenophon said...

@Schorsch/

Yeah, come on down to New Orleans or Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Lake Charles or any town or city in South Louisiana. Conditions are PERFECT for the large, fly-right-at-your-mouth kind when disturbed. The flying cockroach in South Louisiana is so ubiquitous there is a famous poster in New Orleans called "Steppin' Out" which depicts a couple dressed to the nines for the evening leaving their front door and the first step of the male depicts his shoe about to crush a cockroach underneath, lol!

Rhythm and Balls said...

Um, because they're mostly fragile wings instead of a crunchy, quickly crawling body.

Mike said...

At a distance we anthropomorphize the cute or beautiful ones and project our worst fears on the ugly ones. Lady bugs are cute!

Lady bugs are disgustingly gross up close! And that's the rub. There's an "uncanny valley" of sorts that starts at that safe distance and then (for most of us, bug lovers excepted of course) takes up again somewhere on the electron-beam photograph level, where the critters become fascinating again in their detail.

But then again, you have those mites that live on our eyelashes that become visible at that level. Well, crap. I guess all bugs are best enjoyed (or not thought of at all) at about six inches to six feet away.

Jeff Teal said...

Lois McMaster Bujold has a discussion about redesigning bugs in her book "A Civil Campaign". SHE made them glorious.SF writers did it first

tim maguire said...

Butterflies are pretty, fly slowly, stay outside, and don't destroy our gardens. What's not to love?

tim in vermont said...

Moths always appeared to me to be clumsy little creatures, because I usually only see them stuck in screens on mindlessly fluttering and bumbling around a light bulb, and because of their drab colors. But once in a flower garden at night I was treated to a show of them feeding on flowers, you know, like hummingbirds and butterflies, some of them the size of hummingbirds, and they were such graceful flyers, butterflies fly like bats, moths fly like hummingbirds, when they are not battering themselves against a porch light, anyways.

Lauderdale Vet said...

Butterflies pollinate almost as well as bees.

That's one of the reasons I raise them, for my garden.

CStanley said...

Yes, as several other commenters have mentioned, it's the flying at your head and the indestructible to of them. .I developed an intense phobia of them when living in New Orleans. Soon after we moved into our home there was a piece of plywood that the previous owners had left propped up on the fence, and for some reason my 11 year old self thought it was a good idea to move the board. There were literally hundreds of roaches apparently having their midday rest on the back of the board, so many that they covered the carport area as they scattered toward me. I ran as fast as I could, brushing off arms and legs as I felt, and I can never forget or u see that scene- absolutely horrifying.

NOLA has a good museum, recommended, called the Insectarium, where they have both beautiful and disgusting bugs, including a mockup of a home under glass with real roaches pooping all over the place.

This post also brings to mind the great Bunny Matthews comic strip, Vic 'n Natly, also recommended although you might have had to live in NOLA to appreciate all of the cultural references.

MadisonMan said...

When I was in grad school one summer, I lived in a basement apartment, and one night I was awakened by the buzzing of a huge beetle flying above me (my mattress was on the ground). I heard it hit the wall opposite me, and fall to the ground.

Then I heard it slowly moving up the paneling, scraping sounds as it got higher and higher, then a buzzing noise as it took off, only to hit the wall again, and fall to the ground. Then the scraping noise as it resumed climbing. Finally I got up, turned on the light, put it in a glass bottle with a lid, and went back to bed.