'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

Go here to find out more.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Critter Questionnaire

Critter Questionnaire:

Please excuse this mass-produced format, but time is of the essence in my academic life at the moment.
Regular visitors to this blog might know I have undertaken a two year Masters degree in Art and Design. My project is exploring if I can use artworks to explore people's opinions about bugs and other little critters.

I need to find out some information in order to do this.

I wonder if you would take ten minutes out of your probably already busy day to answer a couple of questions?
I need to have a certain number responding to get a good sample size. Your names or details won't be connected with the project in any way, as all the information will be used in collated form).

Thank you!

1. What are your least favourite 5 insects and why?

2. What are your favourite 5 insects and why?

Note, you can include spiders, in fact, any other creatures like worms, centipedes, snails, slugs etc, if you wish. We're not going to get pedantic here. If there is one particular species of beetle or butterfly or spider etc. you particularly dislike or like, please name it if you wish. Do this list quickly and don't think too much about it. Your first reaction is good. Don't worry if your reasons seem emotional. Bugs can be an emotional issue.

Here's a list of some small critters. There are plenty more!:

cockroaches, butterflies, worms, slugs, centipedes, mosquitos, click beetles, spiders, ticks, weevils, grass grubs, moths, leaches, huhu beetles, wetas, caterpillars, ants, bees, mites, millipedes, flies, longhorn beetle, ladybird, borer beetle, sandfly, slaters (woodlice), silverfish, fleas, praying mantids, dragonflies, earwigs, stick insects, stink/ shield bugs, crickets, grasshoppers, aphids, whiteflies, mealybugs,cicadas, planthoppers, craneflies, mayflies, midges, damselflies, wasps, ichneumon wasps, leeches, katydids, water boatman, diving beetles,masonbees, bumblebees, fruitflies, glowworms, stag beetles, jewel beetles, tiger beetles, ground beetles, katipo, white-tailed spider, harvestman, dust mites, thrips, headlice, monarch butterflies, fireflies...

You can leave your response as a comment here, or send me an email directly (address is on my profile). Mention at the end if you'd like to be kept in touch regarding the kind of art that will result from this survey.

Thanks for reading this.

If you can think of anyone else, please forward this questionnaire to them. I need swarms of responses!

Finally, special thanks to all those I have contacted personally already. Your contributions have been much appreciated!


  1. Anonymous13.8.11

    centipedes- all those little legs - eek
    silverfish - waving antenni
    headlice - the stigma, itch and hassle of getting them to leave
    any really big kick ass Spider - especially if they're furry! Except the tarantellas behind glass at the museum, they're kinda cute
    Australian wasps - the huge ones with dangly bits

    love Butterflies - associate with soft and gentle. And lovely summer days
    pray mantis - they're little arms are cool
    caterpillars - soft and fuzzy and usually beautiful
    those little green jumping bugs - with wings kind of like upright sails - cause when u touch them, they jump and it's funny, and they're unique
    glow worms - cause they're really cool

  2. Anonymous13.8.11

    those really big hairy noisy moths you can get flying around at nigt, maggots, wetas,millipedes especially the hairy ones , slugs are my least favourite My most favourite are butterflies crickets (the sound they make is autumn personnified), ladybirds, stag beetles are cool, the monarch caterpillar,

    ta Frances Cooper courtesy of facebook via Fiona Richardson's blog.

  3. Wow, thank you Anon and Francis! I really appreciate your quick response! Um, Frances, do you have a why for the weta, maggots, millipedes, slugs, etc? Sorry to ask but the 'why' is as important as the 'what' for the project... :-)

  4. I'm afraid I'm not going to be much help. I am fascinated by all insects. They all have beauty to me. Least favourite is the Mosquito, followed by the Midge,the Clegg or Horsefly, and demented wasps in autumn. The wee black Sand fly is also a pain.
    Favourites.....hard to pick but the male Stag beetle has to be close to the top. Hover Flies for their variety and Shield beetles for the same reason. Dung Flies for their hairy legs. Last a little black fly I've never got a good picture off.....it seems to spend it's life climbing blades of grass and has the most wonderful orange eyes.

  5. Ew=cockroaches-lived in an apt building that was overrun with them
    Ew= mosquitos-carry disease, can't stop itching them, noone likes to look at scabs
    Ew=scorpions-scary, especially thinking they could crawl in your bed
    Ew=bed bugs-anything crawling in bed creeps me out
    Ew=maggots-if there's one, there's a million
    Ah=ladybugs-they're little, harmless, and comically marked
    Ah=praying mantis-fascinating to watch, especially head movement
    Ah=caterpillars, as long as they're small & fuzzy
    Ah=butterflies-pretty, lazily fly from plant to plant
    Ah=dragonflies-many colors, wing patterns, never land on me

    Hope that helps!

  6. All grist to the mill Adrian. It's great to get response from someone who is especially interested in this size of life. Thank you!

    Shabby Girl - your Ew's and Ah's made me smile. Thanks for your opinions!

  7. I do NOT like scorpions, cockroaches, worms, slugs, wasps,or leeches ONE LITTLE BIT because their bite/sting hurts, they suck blood, they spread disease, they are just plain icky! See also Note A.

    I DO like butterflies, ladybugs, Daddy longlegs, praying mantis (from a distance) because they are beautiful, harmless, ugly in a strangely attractive way. See also Note A.

    Note A. Who can explain it? Who can tell you why? Fools give you reasons; wise men never try.

  8. Robert - thank you for trying to explain why, anyway! *

    * I have to challenge your little ditty. I shall doing by quoting the great Aristotle: 'The unexamined life is not worth living'.

  9. Anonymous14.8.11

    Like - Ants
    - Butterflies
    - Stag beetles
    - crickets / grasshoppers
    - Moths (unless the fly into your head/neck area at night)

    Dislike - Whitetails
    - wasps
    - Cicadas
    - hoo hoo beetles
    - flies

  10. I wonder if Aristotle was referring to person A's life being examined (or unexamined) by others rather than a comment on self-examination.

  11. I did wonder whether if I did my list again now it would be the same as when I originally gave it to you a while ago but I thought I'd better not confuse things (and myself).

  12. Thank you (another anon)... No whys again boo hoo hoo. :-)

    Geeb, I believe that Socrates said that at his trial for heresy. He was on trial for encouraging his students to challenge the accepted beliefs of the time and think for themselves. The sentence was death but Socrates had the option of suggesting an alternative punishment. He could have chosen life in prison or exile, and would likely have avoided death.

    But Socrates believed that these alternatives would rob him of the only thing that made life useful: Examining the world around him and discussing how to make the world a better place. Without his "examined life" there was no point in living. So he suggested that Athens reward him for his service to society. The result, of course, is that they had no alternative and were forced to vote for a punishment of death.

    Info found here: http://www.relaxfocussucceed.com/Articles/2003010002.htm

  13. 1. What are your least favourite 5 insects and why?

    mosquito - spreading of disease, the whining in the middle of the night. They are the only insect that I will happily kill.

    bedbugs - who wants to have their blood sucked in iffy bed linen while they sleep? Nasty little vamints.

    wasps - I have been stung many times by wasps. At certain times they are aggressive. You shoo them away from picnics of barbecues and the little bastards keep coming back. One of God's dumber creations but I admire their papery nests.

    leeches - I didn't even realise they were insects! Who wants little wormy things sucking their blood? Nasty!

    cat fleas - I have spent hours removing these little bastards from cat fur. They cause cats so much irritation and can exacerbate skin conditions. They can also transfer to humans - biting at your ankles etc.

    2. What are your favourite 5 insects and why?

    ladybird - part of English childhood legend and storytime. They are colourful and seem to cause no harm and they are associated with summer days.

    butterfly - beautiful and fragile - even the less colourful ones. What's not to like about butterflies?

    bumble bee - vital to germination, these large hairy bees seem cumbersome and gravity-defying as they flit around plants. They also wear Hull City AFC jerseys!

    ant - I love to watch ant communities as they go about their business. They seem purposeful and well-organised and utterly disregardful of human endeavours. You could say that we are all living on their planet - The Planet of the Ants. There are far more of them than us.

    beetle - I like big cumbersome beetles with their shiny thoraxes, sometimes catching the light in rainbow reflections. They go about their business with quiet determination but are obviously more independent than ants. Didn't like Ringo much though!

  14. I actually wonder about the interpretation placed on the words of Socrates by the self-help organisation (not that I'm suggesting they are wrong but I am questioning their rationale and reasons). However that's not relevant to the point made in rebutting Robert's quote. I think there is little doubt that a quote by Socrates carries more weight than a quote by Oscar Hammerstein whichever way one chooses to interpret it.

  15. YP. I am very grateful for your considered reply. Thank you very much.

    Geeb. Points taken. I confess I went to the first link I found. It may well have put a spin on the situation. Sounded plausible 'tho'!

  16. Dislike: Ticks, botflies, leeches, sandflies, blackflies.
    Like: Longhorn beetles, weevils, bumble bees, leaf-cutter ants, dragonflies.
    I could go on much longer with my like list, since I do generally like most bugs, just not so much the bitey ones.

  17. Oops, I forgot the whys.
    I think the dislikes are all pretty obvious - they bite, spread disease, make me all itchy and, in the case of the botfly, are just eeuuuw all round (and that is coming from an emtomologist!)

    Weevils - just look at them closely and you will see that they have adorable faces that you can'y help but love.

    Longhorn beetles for their crazy antennae and beautiful colours and patterns.

    Leafcutter ants - they have such a complex social life and I love the fact that they are suberb gardeners, growing all their fungi for food.

    Dragonflies - well, who doesn't like dragonflies!?!

    Bumble bees - all soft and fuzzy, busy pollinating and doing good things. Honeybees would be on my list, since they are so industrious with their amazing complex societies, but bumble bees are cuter.

  18. Thanks so much Buggy! I especially appreciate your comments. You see insects up close - a chance that others don't always have.

    May I take the opportunity to suggest to all my readers that they visit your most splendid site and see it for themselves!

  19. 'The five that I dislike...

    1. Head lice. They took up residency in my then thigh length hair for most of my growing up years. I hated the bone comb used to drag them out of the tangles, the tinkling sound as they dropped to the floor and hit the sheet of brown paper I was made to stand on and the smell of the paraffin that was rubbed into my hair to eradicate them. The scratching they induced made my scalp broken, bleeding and sore and meant I had few friends. They were colloquially known as 'lops'. The only good thing about them was that paraffin doused lice gave a satisfying firework explosion when touched with a match and provided a short lived entertainment.

    2. Not strictly an insect, but a parasite - Cryptosporidium. Because it is a killer and being airborne it is invidious and invisible. Every time I see a pregnant woman near sheep and cattle in springtime I want to shout, "Get away from there". The loss of babies and young children to this horrible thing - both in the western world and in developing countries - is still largely unrecognised and it is a crime that our society still takes it so lightly.

    3. The Varoa mite that is decimating the honey bee population as it sucks the life blood from both larval and adult bees.

    4. Cockroaches. Those huge bodies. The beady eyes that do stare out contests with you and always win. The too long antennae that follow your moves. The loud crack as their backs are broken when your barefoot stands on them. When flour was used in wallpaper paste, they would seek it out to feed on and I used to lie in bed watching the moving bulge as they munched, then drift off to sleep with their shiny black ugliness marching through my dreams.

    5. Woodlice. I don't really know why - they're quite pleasant to look at, but no matter how much I recognise that they are mainly composed of nothing more than chalk and completely harmless, they still make me shudder for some inexplicable reason. Even worse, is when they run out of moisture, their bodies dry out and I have to pick the calcified corpses from my kitchen floor. (Part 1 from Elizabeth)

  20. Those I like...

    1.Honey Bees - my mum always kept bees, which I loved to help with and growing up on the moors, I saw many, feeding on the heather. I appreciate their organisation and productivity and they bring a sense of homeliness and memory to me. There is also so much ritual and folklore based around them - in England we tell the weather by them, know when there is going to be a death in the family and when visitors are arriving. In Celtic mythology they act as messengers between our world and the spirit world and I admire the fact that so many deities - Aphrodite, Vishnu, Pan, Cybele, Ra amongst others - have stories linked to the bee; not surprising when you consider that a bee who goes out foraging may fly as many as ten miles a day, gathering pollen and nectar to bring back to the hive, that they do that day after day and may visit more than two million flowers to gather enough nectar to make just one pound of honey. Beautiful, diligent, hardworking, organised, tenacious and producing the purest food product with antiseptic, anti-carcinogenic and reviving properties - that's a lot going on in those little bodies.

    2.The bright red Ladybirds (not so much the yellow ones!), though I did get a very nasty bite from one last summer, which added to their intrigue for me as until that moment I didn't know that they did bite humans. There is so much folklore and tradition surrounding them in almost every culture of the world. You may know that the well-know nursery rhyme had its roots in a older rhyme that was incredibly important in Medieval England. "Ladybird, Ladybird, fly away home...your house is on fire and your children will burn. Except little Nan, who sits in a pan, weaving gold laces as fast as she can!" would be recited as the farmers would set torches to the old Hop vines after the harvest, to clear the fields for the next planting. The poem was a warning to the aphid-eating Ladybirds, still crawling on the vines in search of aphids. The Ladybirds' children (larvae) could get away from the flames, but the immobile pupae (Nan) remained fastened to the plants (laces) and couldn't escape.

    3. Butterflies. I'm nervous of them fluttering close to me, but resting, with their wings spread wide, their beauty and variety is hard to match. They remind me of long, childhood summers, lying on the grass sketching or looking for four-leaf clovers and those magical times when a butterfly would land on my hand for a few transitory moments and I would be perfectly still, examining it, enjoying that slightly tickly feeling and the way it wiggled its antennae, part scared to breathe in case I accidently knocked the powder from its wings but also willing for it to stay longer.

    4. The glass wings of most types. In England we see dragon flies and fireflies mainly, but I would love to see a Greta Oto and Tortoise Shell Beetle in the wild. I love the play of light and shadow that makes only the creature's body visible and the beautiful iridescence of those brief, hurrying glances. Who hasn't dreamt of having a cloak of invisibility for a time?

    5. Ants - as with the bees, I like their social structure, the division of labour and their ability to solve complex problems through interactive communication. They somehow represent a way of life that should be an example for us as humans where everybody counts and works together in getting through this thing called life - I lived in a commune for a number of years and it was very much like that . They are also nomadic, don't give one jot about acquiring possessions and build the most fantastic nests, some of them as complicated and inspirational as the rock churches of Ethiopia or the Mayan temples. '

    Part 2 from Elizabeth. (posted by Kate on behalf)

    Thank you Elizabeth! For this breathtakingly comprehensive response. You get a stamp on the back of your hand, and a sticker in your book.

  21. Anonymous20.8.11

    Hi, I've come here via GB's blog. Hopefully you still want opinions for your sample (haven't read forward to find out)... anyway:


    Slugs: I don't really like slime or mucous (oh how I struggled when my son had a cold!) and these guys are covered in it. If you touch one or pull one off a plant that it happens to be eating then the slime coats your fingers and seems almost impossible to get off. Ugh. They sometimes also have a funny sort of blow hole in which the slime accumuates... or did I just imagine that in a nightmare?

    Fleas: insidious little creatures that bite invariably causing allergies in the bitee. Not helped by them getting evolving to be resistant to flea treatments. Oh dear, that makes it sound like I dislike them because they won't die. It's not really. Maybe I dislike them for being parasites that harm their host and have a tendency to breed out of control if not eradicated.

    Cranefly: I know that they have never harmed me but I dislike them flying around the house on cool winter nights and dive-bombing my head. I dislike their abdomens and that funny bit on the end. Probably I should not examine them quite so closely.

    Headlice: Along with fleas these seems to be a dislike because they are difficult to kill (which sounds so awful). They migrate from head to head whenever two people become close which seems such insidious behaviour. It means that to be sure never to catch one then you must never become close to someone. They cause itching and irritation. Their eggs are glued to hair strands. Ugh.

    Flies: Disliked because of they walk on things and don't wipe their feet so spreading diseases. I hate the thought that they eat by vomiting onto their food, so as to digest it with their stomach acids, and then sucking it back up and that there is no way to tell whether or not they've dined on your food before you put it into your mouth. You also see them swarming around the eyes and noses of those poor children who are suffering from starvation whenever there is an appeal. Some of them bite - they look like normal houseflies but enjoy a nibble.

  22. Anonymous20.8.11


    Ladybirds: for their brightly coloured wing cases and that they do me no harm and their young are useful in that they eat aphids.

    Snails: you can pick them up and, unlike the slugs, they confine their slime to one part of themselves. I like how ingenous their eyes (and noses?) are and the patterns of their shells.

    Butterfiles: for the beauty of their wings and the endearing way that they flit as they fly.

    Bumblebees: again this seems to be (no pun intended ;D ) because of their colour and pattern. I like their furry bodies and adore the variety that have white furry bottoms.

    Garden Spider: I'm not keen on all spiders, just some. Again it relates to looks (I seem so shallow). I like the pattern on its back and the amazing web that it weaves. It also helps us by dining on some of the flying creatures that can harm us or make us sick. Baby spiders or money spiders also seem quite cute - probably because they are tiny and it is considered lucky to find one in your hair.

    Caterpillars: again because of their looks. I like the patterns and the cute way that they walk. That their back legs are different from their front ones. They don't bite us though they do bite our plants. (sorry if this is a duplicate as they could be considered the young of butterflies.)

    Best wishes, good luck with the art work and sorry if I've gone on a bit much.


  23. Thank you very much via GB Anon, and Lynn.
    You cannot 'go on too much'. All the information is very much appreciated!

    I am in the Big City attending another residential course. It finished a few minutes ago and I'm in a cafe typing this... It went well, and although there have been some re-writes of major details, the aim for the project is still the same. Still not too late for you to send in your opinions about critters, folks, if you haven't already done so. All the info has yet to be collated.


Spam will go in the incinerator. All other comments are gratefully received. Communication is what makes the world go 'round.