Bug Myths. The Experts Weigh In
Exaggerations and misconceptions about insects are common place and often far-fetched. Because insects are so different than humans we tend to think the worst and imagine some pretty bizarre ideas about what they can and cannot do. The imagination and creativity that has gone into the making of myths about bugs is considerable, but are some of them actually true. Only real science can tell.
Scarab beetles attack people, crawl under their skin and eat them alive.
According to May Berenbaum, an entomologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Egyptian scarab beetle would, “…have a hard time penetrating skin and then maneuvering through flesh.” Berenbaum admits that the beetles could enter a human body through the anus while in search of food. Most people don’t have to worry. “Generally, this condition is restricted to places where basic hygiene practices are ignored or abandoned.”
Can fleas live on a human body, and if so, for how long?
“In the United States, we do not have flea species that reside on people,” says Michael Dryden, a veterinarian professor who studies fleas at Kansas State University. “There is a group of fleas in the genus Pulex that can call primates (including us) home. But they are fairly rare in industrialized nations such as the U.S.”
Is it true that when you squash a cockroach, you release their eggs? Would you then spread the eggs when you walked?
“No,” says Roberto Pereira, an entomologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville. “Cockroaches bundle their eggs in a hard brown casing called an ootheca, which they will then glue to surfaces including furniture.”
Could a nuclear blast or radiation leak produce giant killer insects?
“No,” claims Dan Babbitt, manager of the insect zoo and butterfly pavilion at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. “There’s a limit to how large insects can get, thanks to how they breathe. Since they don’t have lungs, they breathe through tiny tubes that run from the surface of their body down to their cells. It’s a passive connection that relies on a specific concentration of oxygen in the atmosphere. With the amount of oxygen swirling in our atmosphere today, you wouldn’t be able to get a giant insect like you see in B-list horror movies.”
Now that the truth is out we can all sleep better.