Do little boys really like killing insects?

I visited a friend of mine in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago, and somehow we started talking about insects. She happened to mention something about “all” boys torturing and killing insects and small animals for pleasure. Well, I remember one boy from my elementary school pulling butterflies’ wings off for fun, and maybe one or two others who watched. But according to her, every single boy she ever knew did this. When I said that neither of my brothers ever had, she said, “How do you know?” (Oh but I know!) Well I was just wondering - how common is it? I would say that maybe one in twenty boys have done it, although maybe only one in fifty actually make a habit of it. Can anyone make a more educated/experienced guess at this? I didn’t know many boys when I was young.

Probably IMHO territory…

But…yes, probably. Nothing vs. insects personally, but I found it to be part of the whole innate desire to create/destroy that’s in line with burning stuff with magnifying glasses, blowing up army men with fireworks, launching model rockets, whittle sticks using knives, etc.

You need to differentiate here between insects and small animals. Almost every one of my friends (and myself) had a serious grudge against most insects, spiders, and squishable arthropods. However, this rancor frequently stopped at small lizards and definitely at mice, animals that were chased solely to be caught alive and kept as ‘pets’ (This frequently ended badly for the lizard/mouse/frog in question, but almost never from deliberate malice).

Never trust anybody who makes a claim that sounds like:
All [subgroup of humans] do [something].

I never tortured any insect or animal when I was growing up, just my sisters.

My friends and I never deliberately hurt small animals… except for insects.

At various times, I remember we’d stick firecrackers in anthills and set them off.

One popular pastime was to catch a wasp in a jar, then catch a bumblebee in another jar, then put the two together, and make them fight. We always rooted for the bee, and if the bee won, we’d let it go. If the wasp won, we’d kill it. Years later, when I read Irish novelist Roddy Doyle’s “Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha,” I laughed hysterically at a portion where he tells of little Irish boys doing exactly the same thing! I guess little boys are much the same all over the globe.

None of us grew up to be psycho killers, and all of us would have been aghast at the idea of torturing or killing dogs, cats, rodents, or even frogs or lizards. But bugs seemed like fair game to most little boys my age.

I’ve never intentionally killed any kind of insect when I was a boy.

In fact, I used to spend hours laying on my stomach in the backyard watching an anthill. I once found a cocoon and put it in a jar to see what would emerge. I missed the miracle because it happened when I was at school, but I let the moth go as soon as I got home. I had praying mantids, spiders, crickets, various beetles and several ant farms for pets. It drove my mother to distraction, especially when the tarantula escaped. That’s a story in itself.

I had dreams of becoming an entymologist, but somehow I got sidetracked and became a cop instead.

I still have regrets about that.

Yup, they do. This summer my two year old discovered the joys of squishing ants, and would declare “it’s legs don’t work!” as a victim would struggle onward. After some humane efforts on my part (hypocritically since I was an avid magnifying glass cooker of ants), he has moved on to urging them onto his fingers and studying them. He also attempted to catch fireflies alive, with only a few accident victims. However I expect a relapse is inevitable. It’s also hard not to feel like a hypocrite when I’m out there spraying poison when an army of ants invaded our house from the yard. Wholesale slaughter rather than personal execution.

I must say that I never hurt or maimed small animals at all growing up, and I have never derived pleasure from killing insects. In fact, I make it a point of pride to kill instantly all bugs that I have to kill. If they suffer, I feel bad about it.

Thanks, everyone, for your input. So I guess what I’ve learnt is that most boys don’t hurt or kill small animals, but “insects are fair game”. Boys who don’t kill insects for fun appear to be exceptions, since those of you who didn’t do it just mentioned yourselves, whereas most of you who did do it said that all your friends (or son, in gellfex’s case) did as well. I guess it must be that create/destroy thing that toadspittle was talking about… maybe that’s what leads men to invent things, too?

Just for the record, I don’t trust anyone who makes the claim that all people do something, but I do wonder why they believe that (unless I already know them to be a propaganda-spreading liar).

just to let you know that this does not seem to be a gender-based situation, my 3 nieces recently took great delight in telling me, in graphic detail, how long it takes a daddy-long-legs to die once all of its legs have been removed. they also know all the best DLL hunting spots in and around their house, and go searching for the poor critters when they (the girls) are bored. one of them also seems to delight in trying to pull the antlers off of slugs!!

Well, I don’t know, zoot, I never knew any girl to do anything like that. One girl in my school once found a dead insect and frightened everyone else by keeping it on her desk and threatening people with it from time to time. Apart from that I only ever knew boys who did this, and my friends all say the same thing. I definitely think it’s more common in boys than in girls… but thanks for your input 'cause I didn’t know that girls did it at all.

my brother and I (I being female) used to torch anthills and then watch the ants bring out their dead. Although one might argue that my bro was the instigator (he had the lighters and such) I was a willing participant.

Well, I hate to admit this, but my favorite chore when I was a kid was killing Japanese beetles and Gypsy Moth caterpillars. I’m female.

Since reaching the age of discretion, I’ve always thought I was going straight to hell for enjoying it, but I feel better now.

I was originally asking if anyone could give me information regarding a group of people, like perhaps a group of friends, classmates, or, I guess, family members. I could just try to calculate what percentage of people like to kill insects based on how many people post saying that they individually did or didn’t when they were young, but I have a feeling that unless I personally appealed to a random selection of people this could be a bit skewed. I think I have come to my conclusions regarding the frequency of this practice in boys, but as far as girls are concerned I still believe that it is a rare exception. If you think that it isn’t, you girls could let me know how common you think it is, and whether your friends did it too, instead of just saying that you yourselves did.

I must admit that I killed a couple of insects for fun, when I was very young. It wasn’t at all a habit or a sport, just something I did once or twice because I was bored.

I don’t know how much difference there is in this between the sexes, but considering how often my female family members made me or my father crush icky crawly things for them, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s more common among males because of the “ick” factor.

I sure did!
[list=1]
[li]Grasshoppers - Gawd those things give me the willies. When I was 3 or 4 I walked through a hopper-infested lot and was beseiged by dozens of them. I guess it formed a deep hatred.[/li]I remember once friends and I captured some, removed their legs, and placed them atop a red ant colony. We delighted in their agony as the ants attacked and dismembered them. (We were ditching Sunday school class, and doing this on the back side of the church building. :smiley: )
In the late summer, “old” grasshoppers (large and not energetic enough to hop far) would rest on the pavement of our street. We’d get BB guns and pellet guns, pump them as much as possible, and take aim. With a good hit, they blow up.
[li]Ants - I actually liked ants. But once a friend had some cylindrical smoke bombs. We lit some and put them in several holes of a large ant colony. Colored smoke shot out of every hole we didn’t cover. Then hundreds of multi-colored ants poured out.[/li][li]Preying Mantises - I killed one because it gave me the willies. I then got a lecture from a teacher that saw me do it about the benefits of mantises. So since then, I give them a wide berth, because my willies are still with me.[/li][li]Tomato Worms - Actually a large caterpillar, I remember squishing a few that had crawled onto the school sidewalk. I relished in the fact that their guts shot out about 10 feet.[/li][li]Gypsy Moth Caterpillars - When they got the urge to pupate, they crawl to some high place to cocoon themselves. Often, large herds of them would be ascending a tree at once. We’d squirt them with lighter fluid, then ignite them. Repeat until most were dead. Of all things, my dad taught me to do this. :D:D[/li][/list=1]

I want to adjust the statistics just a bit, Penny, so that the generalization about boys is just a bit more tenuous. I not only did NOT kill, maim, or otherwise torture bugs, but I spent a lot of time watching them and feeling sorry for the ones that got stuck trying to navigate some apparently enormous obstacle as they tried to get somewhere. I also remember getting into numerous arguements with other kids as I tried to stick up for the ants, fireflies, and other animalia that got captured by them or by other insects. We all watched one day as a group of ants tried to drag a dead moth back to the anthill. That fascinated all of us. (I did, myself, collect fireflies, putting them in a jar for an hour or so, but I let them out once I discovered they didn’t survive very well that way). And I almost got into a fight with a kid who took a tree toad (about 1/2 inch long) home with him on the bus from day camp. “How would you like it if some giant took YOU away from your home…etc.” So - nope - not all boys killed insects.

Thanks CC, but you see I started this thread believing that perhaps 1 out of 20 boys liked killing insects, and then after reading the replies I adjusted this to about 1 out of 3. And your post just backs that up, really. Like my boyfriend, you were no insect-killer and even felt sorry for insects. But you mention “getting into numerous arguments with other kids” trying to stick up for the insects “that got captured by them”. And then you almost got into a fight with someone over this. So it looks to me like you were a minority in this matter.

But I’d like to know what you think, not only from your own experience but from witnessing the activities of others, the statistics might be…?

IMO&E 1/3 is probably more accurate than 1/20.
But you also need to distinguish between people who did it sporadically vs. habitually.
I am not proud of the fact that we used to catch lightning bugs and smear them on the sidewalk, wear their butts like jewelry, etc.
All of the neighborhood kids did this.
Don’t remember any other specific recurring types of insect abuse.
I’m not aware of my children doing the like.

Ex-Ant torturer here.

Couple things. My preferred quarry was ants and gypsy moth catepillars. I burned ants with a magnfying glass before I even knew it would become a joke. I have to admit that the hair on my neck stuck out with some combination of perversion and guilt at doing this. As an adult, I wouldnt kill ANY insect except a mosquito and even then only if it was attempting to bite me. I let insects hang out in my house figuring they have it better than outside. I had no defining moment that changed my attitude towards bugs either; it was just growing up I suppose. I would never ever have even considered hurting any mammal or creature other than an insect when I was younger. BTW hurting small animals is considered, along with bedwetting and starting fires, as the indicative behavioral triad of future serial killerdom.