Why We Hate Bugs. Hint: Sex


Why do we find insects so disgusting? It’s because they’re dirty little exhibitionists. Dragonflies, grasshoppers and Louisiana’s infamous love bugs all fly around, stuck together, copulating without any regard for Victorian sensibilities. This hilarious excerpt is from a larger article in The Atlantic on bugs and disgust.

Sex: Insects as Fornicators and Exhibitionists

An abundance of life implies a corresponding profusion of copulation. The orgiastic reproduction of insects has long off ended human sensibilities: “Every swarming thing that swarms upon the earth is an abomination” (Leviticus 11:41). Kolnai described the disgust we feel toward vermin in terms of the “formless effervescence of life, of interminable directionless sprouting and breeding.” He maintained that repugnance is elicited “by the sight of swelling breasts, by swarming broods of some species of animal, fish spawn, perhaps even by rank, overgrown vegetation.” Otto Weininger, another psychologist-philosopher in the early twentieth century, starkly claimed: “All fecundity is simply disgusting.”

In an affront to puritanical sensibilities, dragonflies, grasshoppers, and butterflies are seen in copula throughout the summer. In spring and fall across the southern United States, March flies (aka love bugs, honeymoon flies, and double-headed bugs) unashamedly mate on the wing. Appropriately enough, these six-legged exhibitionists spend their larval lives in the soil, consuming decaying vegetation. Indeed, we conceptually equate sexual license with dirtiness (e.g., pornography is “filth”).


The March fly, Plecia nearctica, is commonly seen in enormous numbers along the Gulf Coast in spring and fall. The common name of love bug refers to the fact that these insects are often seen in copula, even while flying, thereby creating the impression of an insectan orgy. (Wikimedia Commons)


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