Change, and the Power of Language

Marble Mantis looking winsome.

Greetings and Salutations my bug-friendly friends! Welcome and do come in! It is I, your devoted Monarch Lady, here to chat again. Thank you to Tony for letting me take over his blog once more.

As you may recall my personal specialty, when it comes to insects, is Monarch Butterflies. However, I am a massive fan of all things creepy crawly and often raise other kinds of insects in the long winter months when Monarchs have long since flown for warmer climes. Mantises are among my favorites and this past winter I raised Chinese Mantises and a Dead Leaf Mantis and a couple Marbled Mantises. Gorgeous!

Out in the world, mantises eat a varied carnivorous diet of basically whatever insects they can catch, and they can catch a lot. They are one of the fastest hunters on Earth and have both excellent eyesight and reflexes. Anyway, in my house in the dead of winter their diet tends to be a little more restricted. Well, very restricted to mostly store bought crickets. The occasional spider if I can find one in the basement. But, really, if I find a spider in the basement, I’m more likely to box it up and raise it than feed it to another bug.

So, to give my babies some extra nutrition, I ordered some housefly larvae so that when they “hatched” I would have juicy, delicious houseflies to feed the mantises. So pudgy! So cute! So yummy! Now, I am accustomed to dealing with a number of flying feeder insects, so I’m pretty good at getting fruit flies and house flies and all sorts of small squiggly and squirmy things to behave long enough to get into the tank of whatever other insect I am currently raising and sacrifice themselves in a nutritional way. Thank you for your service, little flies.

Occasionally one or two of them get away. This is where our story actually begins.

So there I am on a Sunday evening surrounded by my dear family enjoying a pleasant meal. Chatting, laughing, and occasionally swatting away one of the house flies that had gotten loose. My intention was to recapture the little dear and pop it into a mantis tank, but dinner preparation meant putting it off until later. A fly lands on the table. Someone slams their hand down in an attempt to squash it.

We do not kill bugs in this house. Ever. And what happened next is why.

“Hey!” I exclaim. My dear brother immediately puts his hands up and says “Sorry! Sorry!” because he knows, he really does, how I feel about killing insects and why. But he said THE THING. Here’s THE THING.

“But, come on, it’s just a fly.”

“It’s JUST a fly.”

This is me, your sweet, happy-go-lucky, nerdy, science-loving, hippy-chick butterfly lady when someone says it’s “just” a bug. “Just” an anything really. I mean, sometimes the word means things like fairness and equality and that’s super cool, obvs. But, for the most part, that’s not how we use it, is it? For the most part we use it to mean something totally different and it really makes me crazy. So, most of the time,  I kind of HAAAAAATE the word “just”. let me explain. 

WORDS ARE POWERFUL

Words are so powerful! And the way we use the word “just” most of the time is intended to diminish, to make small, to imply unimportance, to remove power. And throughout our human history we have used it in the worst possible ways to treat each other as badly as possible and take away power from other human beings.

“He’s just a kid” or “she’s just a girl” or “it’s just a bug” are some of the most tame. But when we say that we are saying that kids are not capable of great things, that girls are not as capable as boys, that bugs are not playing an integral part in keeping the world, as we humans enjoy it, going every single day.

I know that you know already why bees are important. Pollination! Honey! Yay! But what about our little house fly friends? Did you know that they pollinate too? They also play an important part in recycling! You see them hanging around garbage because one of their jobs is to help break down food waste. If it weren’t for house flies and other waste reducers, we’d be buried in rotting food.

Our planet is a finely balanced web of interconnectedness and insects are basically the threads of that web. They create so much of the food we rely on through pollination, and there are more pollinator insects out there than you think. They break down and compost our waste, creating the healthy soil we need to grow more food and ridding us of our garbage. They even effect the migration of mammal groups which has influenced our ability to hunt and historically could make or break a community’s ability to survive. Insects and their behaviors are the foundation for all the rest of the natural world, and its time we took that seriously.

Because the bugs are disappearing.

To all my grown-ups out there, do you remember when you were young and you’d go on a long drive and the windshield would get absolutely gross and covered with bugs? Have you noticed how that doesn’t really happen anymore? It seems funny, but that’s actually a thing scientists are calling The Windshield Effect. Based on this and other indicators, citizen scientists all around the world starting counting the bugs in the areas. The rough estimation over the last 30 years is that insect populations world wide are down about 80%.

THIS IS A BIG DEAL AND WE SHOULD BE VERY CONCERNED.

Where did they go? The largest culprits seems to be habitat loss and climate change. When we build and don’t make efforts to replace the habitat we removed, the insect populations suffer. They have fewer and fewer spaces to breed and less and less room to find food and avoid predation. Climate change means that the cold weather is colder and the hot weather is hotter and there are more and fiercer storms and insects are extremely delicate when it comes to habitat changes.

Honestly? Real change starts with the way we think, and the way we think is intrinsically tied to the way we speak. When you see a spider in your home, don’t kill it. Don’t let yourself think “it’s just one spider”, because it’s really not. It’s not “just” a house fly, or a centipede, or a bee , or a potato bug, or a moth, or anything else. Those insects and all the others are the tiniest yet most crucial parts of a delicate network in which they are the very foundation for life as we know it. Stick up for our buggy friends when and where you can. Create spaces in your lives for them to live and thrive. Stop using pesticides at home and in the garden. Get educated on the bugs you share your space with so you no longer fear them. Contact your representatives, churches, and schools to encourage insect and climate friendly initiatives. Teach your kids how they can help. Encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same. Use your words.

Your words are powerful and so are you. Just as one tiny insect is a big part of our lives, we as individuals can make a big difference. You are not “just” one person. You can be a member of a growing group of concerned people who, through their small individual actions, make a huge impact.

Change your words, change some minds, change the world.

Until next time!

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