Since I do educational outreach programs with living Arthropods (referred to below as BUGS!), I have to actually have bugs. Some people think that’s weird. I’m okay with that. I don’t imagine many would find it surprising that I have always had bugs – or something. I mean Bluegills in the basement bathtub, countless beetles and caterpillars and butterflies in nets and other random containers, tons of rolly-pollies and fireflies… you get the idea. I mean, I drove my Mom nuts! 

But this is different. I mean for one thing, I now have a LOT of bugs. more than I ever imagined I’d have. Even while a child always collecting whatever I could get my hands on, I never thought, “When I grow up I wanna have tons of bugs!” I did always imagine cool, extreme fish tanks and stuff… but not this!

I have a couple hundred walking sticks that breed like crazy and eat a bunch. I have a few mantids and a bunch of spiders, tarantulas, black widows, jumping spiders, a whole bunch of cockroaches – hissing, giant and a couple others, spinning cellar spiders, tailless whipscorpions and so on… a bunch.
I kind of like it. And it is just part of my routine to feed the bugs and do the upkeep. They’re easy. I don’t’ think of them as pets (though I do offer when people ask where I keep the bugs, that “they take turns sleeping in the bed” you know…) 

Something about it always unsettles me when I stop to consider….

Here’s the thing…

Some of them look at me. And I can tell. I imagine that most of them look at me – but with some I can see them looking at me.

I even started opening some of my shows with a patter that includes something to the effect of “if you’re looking at them… they’re looking at you, too!” 

I mean, of course. 

And sometimes it’s… not exactly creepy… but notable that I wonder what these guys are thinking. Like the fish in the opening scene in Monty Python’s “Meaning of Life,” it get’s ya thinking….

So, this isn’t really about my personal eco-angst and hang-ups about being a bug captor – I have rationalized long ago that the good, respectful education I’m doing far outweighs… and blah blah blah… 


Sometimes I feel as if we kind of tromp around mindlessly never really looking back at our wake. But all the plants and animals behind us can’t miss it – heck, often they are it! So, when I see a good Samaritan on TV cleaning off a Brown Pelican in the Gulf States, I think, 

“What is that bird thinking?

“Is it … um … thankful? Grateful?

“Is it sad, like me, and probably like you?

“Is it .. bitter? Mad?” (They always kind of look mad with their eyebrow ridges and piercing eyes, anyway…  beautiful!.)

[I wish I had a nice photo of one of these guys -- you can Google them all over the place these days!]

In my line of work I hear people fussing about cockroaches all the time. And assuring me they will survive a nuclear holocaust. And being surprised when I assure them humans will survive that, too, but you can’t predict how deformed we’ll be… haha! But I kind of admire cockroaches. The pest ones. Some of the “Nature” ones are absolutely beautiful and not climbing around the kitchen in the dark, but I mean the pests people make that face at. (Which, incidentally, are also quite beautiful, just wrong place, wrong tim—no – just wrong place!)

These cockroaches, these pests, were there first. Before we were. I admire them because they have chosen not to leave. They are like the people you hear about, when tenements are being torn down, who sit on their porch with a shotgun and say, “you’ll have to tear it down around me then!” They don’t care – they’re not going anywhere. 

Same with “weeds.”

Pests and weeds put their foot down. They drew a line in the sand. We have spent billions and billions and billions of dollars and have done immeasurable damage and… ugh – I could go on and on about how misguided our conceptions of pests and weeds are – especially weeds. Man, have we fought with these guys. Chemical warfare. Fire. Floods. Machines. The Works.

And they fight back. 

We know what they think. “Screw you!”

It’s not quite so clear to me what my bugs think. I’m not letting any predators eat them. They get food and water all the time (when I do my job anyway!) I don’t know if they like “performing.” They’re hard to read, even if they look right at you.

Maybe they think, “At least he’s not eating us.” I honestly can’t tell if they’re happy or sad.

But, I suspect the thoughts of the Brown Pelicans and other victims of the ongoing Gulf Oil War are more transparent.

Probably something like, “What have you done?”