At least once a year—and almost always during summer camp season—I’m required to give “The Talk.” This is not the talk about birds and bees, thank goodness, but about bugs and bees. Let me explain with an example.
Just last week, as I was leading a group of summer campers along the Arboretum’s woodland paths, the relative quiet was shattered with cries of “Aaaaah! A bug! Get it off me! Get it off me!” These shouts were followed by the sad sound of an insect being violently squished. Which is when “The Talk” began.
“Children,” I intoned in my gentlest teacher voice, “You are in nature, the home of all things winged, antennaed, and six-legged. In short, you are guests in the world of insects. This is their home, not yours. Do guests squish, stomp, stamp or otherwise obliterate their hosts? Of course not. Live and let live, campers.”
The campers were not convinced, which brought me to the second part of “The Talk,” in which I explain how our amazing insect friends provide food for other (arguably cuter) animals, pollinate many of the food crops we humans enjoy, and aid in decomposition so that our world isn’t full of icky dead stuff. Insects deserve gratitude, I explain, not gratuitous violence.
Whether or not these words sink in remains questionable. Eons of entrenched human aversion to insects are hard to counteract with one week of environmental education. Still, I persist. Maybe one day my message will grow wings and fly.
by Jenny Houghton
Youth Program Coordinator