Modern Mythology

Modern Mythology: Bug Myths

Modern Mythology is a Teen Skepchick feature in which we try to cut through the woo so you can make informed decisions. If you have any questions, contact us here.

A nasty encounter with a couple of earwigs at a recent camping trip prompted me to write a feature on creepy-crawly myths… Like really, do those things eat your brain?

The short answer… No. Their name probably stems from the old wives’ tale that they do, however. Horror stories abound about people who have had these sinister little creatures burrow into their brains, lay eggs there, and render them brain-dead! Thankfully, it’s not true. Although they may occasionally crawl into the ear canal for shelter, there’s a nice big barrier there stopping them from eating your brains. Your ear drum will be sufficient protection against these little crawlers. Actually, earwigs have the uncommon trait of caring for their young, and showing maternal instincts. Aww.

What about other insects- bed bugs, for instance. Is it true that your house can be infested without you even noticing?! Well… Possibly. But it’s not very likely. People often think that you can’t see bed bugs, but at an adult size of 3-5mm, and with a deep red/brown colouring, they’re not very hard to spot. You’re not likely to see eggs or babies due to their tiny size, but if your furniture is full of ’em, you’ll likely know. What is true, however, is that not everyone will take a bad reaction to bites from bed bugs. Some people will (if you’re like me and allergic to life),  but others can get bitten and not have a clue. A final note on bed bugs! Having an infestation of the little guys doesn’t mean you or your house is dirty! Don’t worry- they’re an exposure pest, a bit like when you got head lice as a kid.

Have you ever been bitten by mosquitoes, and had someone tell you that you must have sweet blood? I never used to get bites from insects, but now I do- regardless of whether I’m in a humid country. This is something I’ve been told several times as a result, and I always had a fleeting thought that it didn’t sound right. I finally looked it up, and it seems like it’s another insect myth. It seems unlikely that certain individuals have “sweet blood” in the first place, but regardless, mosquitoes aren’t attracted to you for your blood. There are several other factors which do attract them though, such as our breath and sweat, body chemistry, dark clothing and perfumes. So if you don’t want to get bitten, wear cool, light clothes and insect repellent, and stay well away from flowery perfumes.

Lastly, a myth that I hadn’t personally heard of before researching insect myths- the super venomous daddy longlegs! I am terrified of spiders- an irrational quirk I can’t help- but I was surprised to find that there’s a fairly widely held belief that these long-limbed critters are deadly to humans, but just lack long enough fangs to bite us. Some types of the daddy longlegs, or harvestmen as they’re also known, have no venom glands at all, whilst others have venom that doesn’t have any more than a trivial effect on people. They can bite, too- easily. Myth. Busted.

Of course, there are a ton more insect/arachnid/wormy thing myths I never got to. If you can think of more, comment below! And think before you kill any harmless bugs- stick ’em outside instead.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

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