Do little boys really like killing insects?

I’ve never deliberately harmed a vertibrate (siblings excepted), but in my younger days I was a veritable arthropod death machine. One spring here in Central Texas, when I was in 4th grade, we were beseiged by vast hordes of hideous little caterpillars. No sidewalk was left unstained as my cohorts and I slaughtered them with every step, singling some out for special torture, usually detonation by hand or drawing-and-halfing, while each of us keept a personal tally.

I’m a grown man and I still like to kill insects. That is, a dead insect is better than a live one. I guess that I actually wish that I had no insects to kill.

What do you females do if you see a roach in your kitchen? Capture and release? Leave it alone?

Insects were always fair game; torturing mammals was cruel. Spiders I generally left alone, especially after reading Charlotte’s Web. But flies…oh, flies…

Step 1: Catch fly in jar. Pretty easy to corner the fly in window and force it into a wide-mouth pickle or mayonnaise jar.
Step 2: Place jar in freezer.
Step 3: Monitor fly’s increasing sluggishness.
Step 4: Once the fly, um, can’t any more, but is still crawling around, light a match.
Step 5: Burn fly’s wings off.
Step 6: Let fly thaw a little bit to see what it does without wings.
Step 7: Chill fly again.
Step 8: Light another match - burn remainder of fly.
Step 9: Throw charred shell out.


Now, I did get a bit of a talking-to one time when I forgot about my little experiment after Step 2 (or maybe it was Step 7). I don’t think it disturbed my Dad very much, since the flies I didn’t catch the cat would eat anyway.

This is more of an IMHO than a GQ. I meant to move it last night, but I was too busy torturing a moth.

moderator GQ
(whose nieces kill more bugs in a day than I did in my entire childhood).

Definitely not a gender-specific activity.
My sister and I were avid bug killers, up until the age of 10 or so when we started to realize society expected us to be frightened by bugs.

We used to

  • catch large numbers of ants and put them in bowls of water, dunking them over and over 'til they finally died (takes a long time!)

  • drown wasps and bees by putting jars over them when they landed on the surface of our kiddie pool. Then we’d tip the jar to let in water without letting the wasp/bee out, and swim around, checking every now and again to see if theywere dead.

  • pull the legs off daddy long legs

  • pop the heads off dragon flies

  • try to tie hair-leashes to flies (most of the flies did not survive the attempt)

  • burn spiders with cigarette lighters (no! we were NOT supposed to have fire-making tools!)

One type of insect we loved to play with but never harmed were cicadas. I am now squeamish about most bugs, but can still handle cicadas with no trace of revulsion.

Forgot to mention burning ants and whatnot with a magnifying glass.

The coolest was when my mom showed us how she used to fry bugs with her eyeglasses when she was a kid!

First of all, KidCharlemagne, I am aware that torturing small animals, along with bedwetting and starting fires, is the indicative triad of serial killers. In fact I was reading a thread started by someone named Zenster, I believe, about cat-killers when I decided to put my own question regarding insects to this message board. I’ve also been wondering what kind of “animals” are being referred to in this indicative triad. Insects might not count, but do frogs?

Secondly, Perderabo, I think everyone else who responded to this thread understood that I didn’t mean killing insects out of necessity. I think everyone prefers a dead insect to a live one. I meant the killing (and torturing) of insects for fun, in the sense that everyone else took it, e.g. burning with magnifying glasses, etc. In answer to your question, though, if I found a cockroach in my kitchen I would probably run screaming out to find the nearest male and then offer sexual favours in return for a little manly extermination. I have also tried the capture and release method, though, as well as the good old overturned-shoebox-hopefully-leading-to-starvation method.

Thirdly, bibliophage, I don’t really understand why this thread belongs in the IMHO category. I thought I had asked a question like any other. Was it because I wanted people to respond with what they in their opinion felt that the correct answer might be? I mean, the fact that there is probably no scientifically proven answer? Because I thought that there were other threads in the General Questions category which involve issues for which there is no scientific evidence, and to which people respond with whatever their opinion happens to be. Was I wrong?

One thing I used to do that I haven’t seen mentioned here is put two or more different types of insect in a jar to see who would win a fight. Did you know that two ants can overpower a robber fly?

My friends and sister and I did the “pull the legs off the daddy long legs and watch them suffer” and the “so, does burning ants with a microscope really work” thing. Other spiders just squished with delight. Caterpillars and pill bugs were pretty safe from intentional destruction (But do any caterpillars really manage to live in those jars? Or is that just a slow death instead of a fast death? and after frightening them to watch them curl up, then moving them and unfrightening them and moving them and etc. I suspect the pill bugs’ quality of life was diminished.) And we were girls.

I think most little kids have killed insects, but my family follows the ‘kill it and eat it’ rule. Unless it was dangerous (in reality or potential) or majorly annoying, if you killed it, you ate it. His father brought my son a frog he had found at work and the first thing my boy did was get a stick. I asked him “Plan on eating that?”
Who gets to decide what is frivolous killing? Mom.
If it was an accident, they didn’t have to eat it. No body ever ended up eating anything icky, but many a cricket’s life was saved.

I think many kids of both sexes harmed insects, but I would be worried about abuse to animals – I’ve read that abusing animals as a child is correlated to serious criminal problems in adulthood.


When I was a kid, I used to make baby daddylonglegs spiders attack my Lego people. The spiders were then “eaten” by my Voltron lion troupe.

I also crafted elaborate Lego prisons (complete with observation windows and feeding hatches) for the potato bugs and various unidentified critters I captured. I let most of them go, but only after a few hours of watching them try to escape.

Up until a few years ago, my dad and I used to sit on the patio at night and shoot at cockroaches with soapwater solution in a spray bottle. In the morning, the yard would be littered with roach corpses. My mom, the Sweeper of the Yard, was grateful when we gave this sport up.

The only form of insect torment I engage in now is when I flick bugs off my window and door screens.

We never even thought of hurting any small animals, but my friends and I did enjoy hours of burning ants and beetles with magnifying glasses, firworks, gasoline, etc. I seriously doubt that any boys, in their right mind, would hurt any animals. Any kid who tortures animals has problems that need to be tended to before they do something more drastic in their adolescents.

Hey, some of us grown-up-men types get a little kick out of it.

Since it’s my job to keep my clients’ homes and businesses pest free, I get a certain grim satisfaction out of trouble-shooting and solving a problem.

This goes beyond merely wanting to do a good job. If I dust the access hole to a hidden yellowjacket nest or in the cracks of a railroad-tie retaining wall where carpenter ants are nesting, I get a kind of grim satisfaction out of watching the result.

I think it stems from the feeling that I’m better than these particular insects, because I found their hiding place. They thought they were so clever by building their nest in a hidden spot, but I found them and they’re doomed.

FTR, whether they “suffer” or not doesn’t matter to me one whit. If they’re in someone’s home or business, they’re where they don’t belong, and they have to die.

There is that, in most young, male children of prepubescent age, which allows them to gain pleasure from the killing and/or torture of small critters like insects and reptiles in many cases, or to ignore their injurious actions to said creatures through play and experimentation.
It is thought that this action, which is predominate in the male child, is a genetic throwback to the primitive animal brain/instincts humans have/had prior to reaching full sentience.

It is though then that the act of killing produced a reward of a psycho-sexual nature through the death throes of the animal caught by a proto-human, a feeling of sexual and physical dominance, as well as the soon to be satisfied need for food and raw materials. In adult human males, this primitive urge is tempered and decreased, but remains there as part of nature as seen in the average acts of any Alpha male in business and in pleasure. Most males today take great satisfaction in violent sports that can cause injury, or in major, complex business deals that can vanquish or over power a rival.

Most children, upon reaching the age where they realize that small creatures feel pain also, compare it to themselves feeling pain and pain observed experienced by other children, and develop an empathy which causes them to cease torture for pleasure or causative or casual injury to such small beings. This varies according to the individual despisal of any specific group of insects for a human male will willingly destroy a hated fire ant nest with poison, searing hot liquid lead, drowning or even fire without regard to the millions of individual ants. He will also unhesitatingly blow torch a dangerous wasp nest off of his home or poison a yellow jacket colony under a rotted log in the ground.

At the same time, he may feel remorse for accidentally stepping on and squashing a toad, killing an animal with his car, or even unintentionally killing a Dragonfly. Part of the maturation process in humans is the development of empathy for various living creatures. Even hunters have to be brought up around hunting in order to get used to killing warm blooded animals and a good hunter still feels respect/empathy for his kill and his goal is to kill as painlessly as possible.

The act of hunting fills a primitive need in him for hunting, the excitement of the chase and the triumph of the kill from primitive times. Some people have to actually be taught to enjoy ‘the hunt’ and hunters tales have mentioned many a young boy, being exposed to actual hunting for the first time, to actually react emotionally against it but encouragement by the parent, his obvious enjoyment of it and the pleasurable activities leading up to the actual killing can cause him to overcome his sadness at the destruction of large life and enjoy it.

Boys from birth tend to be more destructive and violent than girls, who tend to be more introspective and creative. The differences in behavior is obvious to any parent who has children of both sexes.

Any child, male or female, who fails to grow out of the wanton killing and pleasure in killing of insects and small reptiles, can often move on to small animals and find that killing gives them a vicarious and visceral pleasure. While they may not turn into serial killers, they will not necessarily become the most sympathetic or empathic adults and will not have what would be considered a normal life among the society.

Exceptions include people who despise insects and those who make a living exterminating them. One can harden oneself to the destruction of vast numbers of insects once one considers them pests and even an exterminator can feel enough empathy for a single insect that he/she will kill it quickly and painlessly or let it wander on it’s way and not make a point of torturing it for sheer pleasure.

Empathy is a vital ingredient to the human psyche.

Both of my sons never killed insects, and possibly why has to do with I ‘collected’ them as a child. I would explain when the boys were small about how my toads were in shoe boxes and that they’d jump out and scare my mother…[Delighting me, of course!] I also kept lizards, chameleons, and once even had a black snake.

They’d also witness me picking up daddy long legs that had gotten into the house and taking them outside. Both kids at early ages could just * watch * the bugs crawl, but they also never wanted to touch them! Even today, my youngest is now 17, and I found the BIGGEST catapillar that I’d ever seen and ran inside to show him, and he admired it from VERY far away!

You mentioned being a ‘hypocrite’ because you would spray out in the yard. I always told my kids when I had to do that, THOSE bugs were * pests, * which made them a threat to our ‘clean house environment’. :wink:

Thank you, Iwannaknow, for that detailed and interesting reply. It answered a lot of the questions which I was hoping to resolve through this thread.

When I was a little girl, I used to take woodlice apart.

Of course, being female, I did it in a creative, introspective way.

The post to which I assume you are rolling your eyes, Tansu, claims that girls tend to be more creative and introspective. There are always exceptions, as is implied in the statement. If you don’t agree that this tendancy exists at all, I’m sure we could start a thread to discuss it. In fact I’m very interested in the perceived differences between boys and girls and whether they are innate or conditioned.

well i never killed any insects but maybe this poll you r taking will have its results biased because most of the people who don’t maim and kill insects would find their own input boring so they wouldn’t normally post.
or they might find the poll description disguisting and decide not to go any further. ie they would have focused on other interests and not reply here whilst the others that did it would strike a chord andtheir memories regarding their childhood would re emerge. so i think you should go back to the origonal hypothesis.
1/20 roughly.
i am interested bcause i knew someone who did this in my childhood and he turned out psychotic and cruel to other humans and i was curious to see the outcome of the poll.