As spring blooms, we’re more likely to find creepy-crawlies finding their way into our homes. No, I’m not talking about cockroaches, mosquitoes, bed bugs, ticks, or any other insect horde that holds our home hostage or spreads hemorrhagic fever. I’m referring to the occasional stray praying mantis, beetle, or spider that accidentally wanders indoors and can’t seem to get back outside.
When it comes to “getting rid” of these stray wanderers, there seems to be three types of people. There’s the “OMG there’s a bug! Kill it!” folks who automatically thing that every bug they see is gross, disease-carrying, and needs to die. Admittedly, I used to be one of those types – until I got totally schooled by a former friend on how specific bugs were essential to our environment.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is the “I humanely relocate everything I see that is out of place” types. This behavior may seem saintly. But it also reminds me of Thomas Nagel’s essay “Birth, Death, and the Meaning of Life,” where he spoke about non-interference. It’s like Star Trek’s Prime Directive – for all you fellow Trekkies out there!
Finally, somewhere in the middle there’s the “I want to save it, but I’m afraid to go near it” folks. Your heart is in the right place and you often find yourselves calling in a significant other, spouse, child, or friend to do the dirty deed of removing said insect from your wall. The typical bug relocation kit includes a plastic cup and paper plate. But there are tools out there, like My Critter Catcher, that allows you to humanely remove insects from your home while keeping them a generous distance away from your body and hands. You know. Just in case that spider bites you with radioactive venom.
Here’s 9 species of bugs that may find their way into your home. And they’re totally worthy of saving.
Crickets are small nocturnal insects that are related to grasshoppers. They’re smaller in size than their cousins, often donned in drab colors. While cricket infestations can cause damage to young plants, crickets are harmless to humans. They’re active from spring through the fall. Because of their loud chirping at night, they’re often considered a nuisance. If you see one, be kind and relocate it outside.
Grasshoppers have existed before the dinosaurs. Primitive grasshoppers have been found from 300 million years ago, existing during the Carboniferous Period. A lone grasshopper is completely harmless. Locust cousins look like grasshoppers but vary in behavior – swarming behavior. Locust swarms cause billions of dollars of damage to food crops. Across the globe grasshoppers are considered good luck. This sentiment stems from the fact that grasshoppers can only jump forward, not backward. If you can catch one of these powerful jumpers, let it free in your garden.
Spiders are like the regulators of the insect world. They keep the pest population under control and are vital to our ecosystem. Ironically, smaller spider species dwell in the USA, which boasts high populations of arachnophobia, while in tropical climates, the spiders are huge and the arachnophobia population is low. Common household spiders you’re likely to find include: the Cellar Spider (Daddy Longlegs), Cobweb Spider, Brown Recluse, Black Widow, the Hobo Spider (or Funnel Web Spider – but NOT to be confused with this deadly Funnel Web Spider!), Sac Spider, Jumping Spider, Crab Spider, and Wolf Spider. They’re often good for your home. Spiders get rid of the nasty pests. Infestations, on the other hand, of spiders like Black Widow or Brown Recluse need to be dealt with by professional exterminators. Spiders will bite humans if provoked, or if the spider feels threatened – some with deadly consequences. However, they’re wrongly blamed for bumps, rashes, growths, and bites humans find upon waking up. Spiders rarely bite sleeping humans. And that rumor about swallowing 4 spiders while you sleep? It’s a myth. These arachnids are exceptional hunters and found on every continent, except Antarctica. Spider silk contains Vitamin K, which helps stop bleeding. So, if you’re wandering in the woods without a first aid kit and cut yourself – find an abandoned spider web and use it as a bandage.
Spiders can become “domesticated.” If they’re found in a home, it’s likely that they consider the house their home, too, rather than the outdoors. As Nagel illustrated in his example, relocating the spider may be harmful to its health. Use your discretion. If you see a spider wandering in from outside, kindly send it back outdoors. But if you see a spider that set up camp in your home, let it be. It’s free pest control for you!
The praying mantis is a stunning beauty that’s a force to be reckoned with. They’re a predatory group of insects that eats just about any bug that moves. Their head can turn 180-degrees. Praying mantises are completely harmless to humans. But cannibalism is common amongst their species. The word Mantis is derived from the Greek mantikos, which means prophet. Culturally, the praying mantis is a symbol of stillness or prayer.
This bug is really a beetle. There’s over 500 species of ladybugs living in the US alone. Ladybugs are quite colorful. They come in more than red. In fact, you can find ladybugs in yellow, orange, red, pink, brown, and black. The spots on their back warn potential predators that they taste awful. Ladybugs are very beneficial to your garden. These little beetles eat aphids and other plant-damaging insects. During the winter, Ladybugs hibernate. They’re considered good luck in many cultures.
Most beetles play a vital role in the ecosystem. They feed on the debris of plants and animals (“it’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it”). Prehistoric beetles that resemble modern beetles were found dating back to 230 million years ago. They thrive outside, so please relocate it back to its natural habitat. The scarab is a type of dung beetle that was a sacred symbol in Ancient Egypt. The winged scarab was a symbol of rebirth and regeneration.
Walking Stick Bugs
If you see walking stick bug, it is completely harmless. They’re mostly nocturnal and eat plant matter. Walking stick bugs have some pretty cool abilities. If one of their limbs falls off, they can regenerate new limbs! And they play dead. Yup. Just like Fido. Most walking stick bugs play dead to ward away predators. Contrary to popular belief, walking stick bugs do NOT bite and are NOT venomous. So, please, if you see one make its way into your home, place it back outdoors.
Dragonflies evolved 300 million years ago. Prehistoric dragonflies had a wingspan of 2-feet. Modern dragonflies only have a wingspan of 2 to 3 inches. To feed, dragonflies catch prey in their feet while they’re flying. Dragonfly larvae can live in water 2 to 6 years, but adult dragonflies have a lifespan of only a few weeks to a year. These gorgeous insects are often seen to symbolize change and self-reflection. If you see a dragonfly accidentally fly into your home, kindly direct it back outside. Their adult life is short enough without your help.
Butterflies also have a tragically short lifespan. There’s about 15 to 20 thousand species, 750 species found in the United States. Butterflies help pollinate flowers and eat pesky weeds. Like honey bees, butterflies are responsible for helping flowers cross-pollinate. The presence or absence of butterflies in a region can tell us a lot about the ecosystem, for example, if it’s too dry, if the temperature is too hot or cold, etc. Kindly let butterflies out of your home. It’s not their natural habitat.