Most people are scared, or at least wary, of
almost all insects (more correctly
arthropods) based on reasonable or
But, insects are integral to all human
cultures. They are part of our language, art,
history, philosophy, and religion. They are
directly useful to human beings by
producing honey, silk, wax, lacquer and
other products. They also play the
important roles of pollinators of crops, and
scavengers. Some of them are natural
enemies of pests, and food for other
However, as human society
has become progressively
more urbanised, we have
become more distanced
from the world of critters. But can
we live without them? Not really. So
how do we strike a balance?
Morning in an apartment in a city
Rohan: Where is my lunch box? God, I am getting late...
Papa and Amrita are waiting in the car! Ahhh…there it is
on the table. (Grabs the box and starts to run. Then stops
and lets out a piercing yell).
Mr Mehta: (Rushes in) What is it? What happened?
Rohan: (Scratching himself frantically): Look at these red
ants..they are all over the table and all over me now…
Mr Mehta: Hmm…With all these biscuit crumbs strewn
around, no wonder these pests are having a feast. Here,
let me take care of this.
(Takes out a can of insecticides from the bathroom cabinet
and briskly sprays it on the table and the floor. Leaving a
row of dead ants behind, the family leaves for work).
Afternoon in an apartment in a city
Amrita: What a racket you created today in the morning.
You are such a baby! What are you doing over there now?
Rohan: (bending over a jam jar near a window in the bed
room): Just look at these lady birds (garden beetles). Aren’t
they pretty? I am feeding them some green leaves. It’s
lunch time for them too.
Amrita: Oh my god, are you keeping those creepy insects
in our bed room? Just throw them out, will you?
Rohan: No way! Do I kick up a fuss about that awful gold
fish you keep in that bowl? My insects are far prettier than
Amrita: How can you compare my harmless little fish with
your crawlies? And since when have you turned into an insect-lover? Ants are insects too, you know!
(Both glare at each other, while Rohan holds the jar
Morning in a farmland in a village
Entomophobia is acquired in early childhood and is
usually a result of traumatic conditioning, i.e. an
unpleasant experience, such as a painful sting or,
of acquired conditioning. Indeed, the child who
sees his parents react violently at the sight of an
insect, will automatically associate that insect with
the state of fear.
In the scientific literature, the hypothesis is
raised that human beings may be more predisposed
to entomophobia than any other type of phobia
because early man was exposed to a great many
dangerous insects and developed a highly effective
flight reflex in order to defend himself. This
predisposition would therefore be ingrained,
programmed in our genes.
Meher: Isn’t it great that the school is closed today?
Ammi would have never let us come with Abbu to the
fields and play here otherwise.
Sajid: (playing with a stick and stones near the tube
well) Yes. School is really boring. Yuck! look at this
slithery earthworm over here. It is so ugly.
Meher: Sajid, leave the creature alone at once! Don’t
Sajid: (Poking the stick around): Why shouldn’t I?
Meher: (Rushing to stop Sajid): Don’t you remember
what Abbu told us the other day? Earthworms eat
waste plant material in the soil and convert it to
manure. Don’t you see those small balls of soil? That’s
(Sajid shamefacedly drops the stick and starts playing
with frogs in the tank).
Afternoon in a farmland in a village
Suleman: Now you have had your lunch kids, go and
play somewhere else. I am going to spray the fields,
and I don’t want you to inhale the fumes.
Meher: What will you spray Abbu?
Suleman: (Takes out two plastic cans) This one has
kerosene in it, and the other is a chemical insecticide.
Sajid: (Looking worried) Are you going to kill insects?
Suleman: Yes, these pests eat our crops, and they
have to be destroyed.
Meher: But won’t these chemicals kill earthworms
too? We don’t want them killed, do we?
Suleman: Well, yes, some useful ones will die too.
But it is better to have no insects than to be plagued
by the rogue critters.
Sajid: (very confused) But…but..
(But his father has already begun spraying and is
waving at them to move away)