"No Sting Too Painful" for "Bug Attack" Scientist

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"Despite being a large, noticeable predator and a species bought and sold in the pet trade, no one has ever bothered to ask what Scolopendra does for a living in the wild," DeVries said. "How long does it live? What exactly does it feed on? How far does it move? Does it have territories? Basic stuff."

The most scared the intrepid explorer got during filming was when his crew convinced him to don a protective suit with a visor before he encountered the giant Japanese hornet (Vespa mandarina japonica).

"I had been told it was going to really be bad when you get near the nest—swarms, stings, attacks—and that collectively they were some sort of killing machine with an attitude. You know, over-the-top hyperbole," DeVries said.

It turned out that DeVries only felt trapped by the suit as he gazed at the hornets and wondered about their lifestyle and how they fit into the Japanese island environment.

Living With Insects

Scientists believe that insects outnumber humans by more than a billion to one and that the world contains thousands of insect secrets waiting to be discovered. What is known about insects is that they are essential for ecosystems to thrive.

Insects serve as pollinators for food crops, nutritious sustenance for a range of birds and mammals, and decomposers of plant and animal products.

"Plants and insects are inextricably linked and represent a potent force that allows life as we know it to exist on planet Earth," DeVries said.

Kimsey said that humans need to learn to tolerate insects. Programs to rid cities of mosquitoes that spread West Nile virus or fleas, ticks, and lice that are vectors of disease may be worthwhile, she said. The effect, though, may be primarily psychological.

"It makes people feel better," Kimsey said. "A lot of things marketed to control insects are just scams, ways to separate you from $20."

Rather, DeVries recommends that people develop the same curiosity that he did as young child: Become aware of insects, learn from them, and learn to respect them.

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