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Trustinglife's avatar

Would you crush these bugs if they were in your home?

Asked by Trustinglife (6653points) June 16th, 2009

Our home has been populated by some kind of moth. It’s a kind that burrows into grains in the pantry, and at this point, they fly throughout the house. We’ve cleaned out the pantry, but the moths are still here, and I’m not sure we got to the root of the cause. Mind you, this question isn’t about how to get them out – I consulted Google for that.

This question is more about the morality of killing. Killing bugs.

So these moths are relatively harmless, and I don’t really mind them, but they’re there. My habit has been to swat at them, but I stop short of killing them. My roommate would like my assistance in killing them, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. Which is why I’m asking you all for what you would do and why, to get your perspective.

I just read miasmom’s similar question from back in January. I like to think it’s compassionate of me to not kill the bugs, but at the same time, I eat meat. Hypocritical, huh? Occasionally when I do kill one of these moths – this feels edgy for me to say – I experience a momentary satisfaction at snuffing out a life. Enough of me talking… what do you think? What do you do? And why?

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37 Answers

mcbealer's avatar

Call me a woos, but every time I kill a bug I let out a little shriek of horror. Something about feeling its exoskeleton collapsing as it’s smashed, and all of its innards oozing out that really gets to me.

dynamicduo's avatar

I see nothing wrong in killing them. They are a pest. I am dealing with a small infestation of a grain weevil and if I see them around I don’t hesitate to kill them. It’s nothing about gaining satisfaction from it, it’s simply that they are where they shouldn’t be, and I must take action to remedy it.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

I’m fighting moths at the moment myself. So far, they’ve destroyed a fur jacket my mother-in-law left me ($1800 jacket is now worthless. Not that I wear fur, but I was going to sell it.) and they’ve eaten holes in six sweaters.

Lupin's avatar

Do it! Think of it this way, they are taking advantage your hospitality by eating and defecating in your food, procreating in your clothing and they’re not paying you a cent in rent.
Two chemical free methods are: sucking them up in a vacuum cleaner and applying Window Fly Traps to south facing windows in the house. (`$2.00 for 4 strips) They are transparent and work for months. They will also get flies.

gymnastchick729's avatar

We have this same problem. If you don’t want to kill them directly, just get rid of all of the grain in your pantry. Eliminate the source. Killing them off one by one is not very effective, because soon enough, you will find little maggots in your oatmeal…and you’re left with an even bigger problem. So, cut off their food source, and eventually, they will disappear.

calvinette's avatar

One way we’ve prevented critters from infiltrating our grains and other tempting foods is by keeping them in re-used peanut butter jars. All our rice, pasta, oatmeal, grits, couscous, flour, sugar and most baking supplies really keep well in those things.

kevbo's avatar

We probably had a different kind of moth, but an effective non-killing method is to wait until dark. Turn on one light in the house until they’re attracted to that light. Next, turn on another light that will move them closer to a door. Repeat until the next light to turn on is a porch light. Close the door once they get outside.

Saturated_Brain's avatar

Think about it in this way. Would you kill a cute fluffy little bunny? If you can see it squirm in pain as you step on its head. Try thinking about doing it to various other animals. Dogs. Cats. Lions. Crocodiles. Lizards.

If you realise it, your reactions become less and less “Oh no what am I doing?!” the further you get from mammals. You start to become less averse and can start to actually cause harm to these creatures the less they resemble mammals, and hence humans. Thus, it becomes easier for us to dissociate ourselves from them.

What more of insects? They barely resemble us at all. Plus they are also a major pest. I think that therefore it becomes extremely easy for us to then go and kill them.

casheroo's avatar

I feel a tinge of guilt, but it doesn’t last. I can’t sleep if I know there’s a bug in the house, especially my bedroom.

Harp's avatar

Disclaimer: What I’m about to write is just my take on the question as I apply it to my own life and isn’t meant as a judgment on how others see it

Morality boils down to compassion, and compassion is a faculty that gets developed through exercise and atrophies through disuse. Compassion isn’t about having fuzzy feelings; it can be damned inconvenient at times. But being compassionate when it’s inconvenient is what truly changes us for the better by breaking down our perceived boundaries and shifting the way we see the world and our place in it.

When you get lured into making exceptions to compassion – and it’s always possible to rationalize your way out of compassion – that inevitably undermines that process of transformation. That’s true on a grand scale, like how we treat “enemy combatants”, and it’s true on a tiny scale, like how we treat moths.

CMaz's avatar

I have no problem crushing any bug. Especially when the are shouting, “help me! Help me!.”

Judi's avatar

as long as they’re minding their own business then they’re alright with me. Once they invade my house (and get into my food yuck!) They are dead by any means necessary!

RedPowerLady's avatar

The moths need to be killed if you want to get rid of the infestation. They only live a very short life anyhow (a couple of days?) and in that short life they breed and lay eggs. The eggs turn into maggoty worms that infest your food. You really have to kill the maggoty worms and the moths to get rid of the infestation. It’s not a matter of morality in my books but one of practicality.

gailcalled's avatar

Use 1 pint canning jars with lids and rings to store all grains, nuts, dry cereal during the summer. The moths cannot get in. Keep extra edibles in the freezer. You can buy a dozen at your local hardware store.

I had one summer invasion of maggots, and never again!

dalepetrie's avatar

No qualms here, they’re insects for Chrissakes.

Strauss's avatar

Had the same problem a couple years ago. Here they are miller’s moths. We don’t like to kill anything (like @harp, no judgement on anyone else), so we isolated food sources, using jars instead of baggies, and stored a lot of things in fridge and freezer. We also became aware of entry points, and kept doors and windows closed. We also had a problem with mice a while back. We sealed up entry points, eliminated food sources and used humane “catch & releas” traps, relocating them to a vacant field several miles away.

sanari's avatar

I couldn’t crush the bugs, because they are alive – even though they are akin to monsters. They disgust me, and I wouldn’t want to touch them.

Why don’t you try to get rid of them so you don’t have to think about crushing and killing them? It seems the google search didn’t do much good!


RedPowerLady's avatar

If you do need tips on how to get rid of them let us know. I’ve got a few

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@casheroo, maybe I shouldn’t remind you of the spiders that also call your house, home. Of course, they are perfectly harmless unless you are an insect, they won’t bite you, and even if they did, which is highly unlikely, you would feel no ill effects from it. Live and let live when it comes to spiders and other harmless creatures. Bugs in my food, oh those ones ARE GOING TO DIE!!!

oratio's avatar

I don’t think the world would miss any bug. I mostly let them out, but whatever makes them gone, is fine with me.

bea2345's avatar

I keep my flour in the refrigerator, corn meal and other grains in Ziploc bags (did you know that ziploc is a generic word in Trinidadian for a resealable plastic bag?).

Jack79's avatar

I think I have the exact same ones (if you mean really small, smaller than flies, but fluffier). Yes, they’re harmless, but they’re annoying, and when I fry stuff they fall into the pan and I’m not really keen on eating my chips with fried moths on them.

So I’ve been killing them. Their population has decreased significantly over the past month, but I still see a couple here and there. I don’t feel happy about killing them, I get no sadistic pleasure or joy. But I don’t feel guilty either, it’s just a job, like collecting dust or wiping a dirty surface. Yes, I know they are living creatures, but I don’t think of them in the same way I’d think of a cat or even a centipede. I’d never kill a butterfly, for example. Or even a fly. I’d try and persuade them to fly out the window. But I exterminate cockroaches and have a particular grudge against them. I feel they are disgusting and do everything in my power to keep them from entering my house.

It’s a personal feeling, I can’t really tell you how you should feel about it, all I can do is describe my own feelings towards the various crawlies.

dalepetrie's avatar

I’m going to say that if every person on planet Earth were to spend every free moment killing insects, the effect on the population of any given insect species would be negligible. Evolution has already factored into the survival of the species a very high mortality rate….i.e. there’s a reason they lay like 200 eggs at at time. Go ahead, swat to your heart’s content. It’s not as if they have the kind of complex nervous system, the brain structure, or even the frontal lobe that we have that would make them in any way aware of the pain or able to “suffer” as you and I understand the term. Hell, some insects willingly give up their lives just to mate. Bugs have a purpose, but they do not have a consciousness the way you understand one, and their purpose will be fulfilled no matter how many of the little buggers you stomp.

oratio's avatar

There must be so many bugs in heaven, I am not sure I wanna go there.

TitsMcGhee's avatar

Eh, survival of the fittest in my honest opinion. The ones who are smart enough will get out or not get caught.

Trustinglife's avatar

Thanks for all the responses. I find myself wanting to ask @Harp: Taking this out of the realm of the theoretical, how would you handle this situation, with moths breeding in your pantry? How would you have compassion for these beings then, while still maintaining compassion for yourself and your own preferences and desires?

I’ve allowed myself to stay on the sidelines in not killing bugs, because it’s not my grain in the pantry – and besides, I’m moving out in a couple weeks anyway.

But I asked this question because beyond just this one situation, I get to decide how I want to be toward insects for the rest of my life. I’m leaning toward starting to kill them, as an experiment, to see how it feels. I appreciate hearing all of your perspectives on this question.

RedPowerLady's avatar

Just be careful when you move because the moths can also get into your clothes. They say it is two separate types of moths but not-so-much.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

Too add to @dalepetrie‘s comment, if you had a large enough scale, and weighed all the world’s many legged creepy crawlies against ALL the other creatures on the planet, including sea mammals and fish, the bugs would WEIGH MORE. Smack em all you want, they’ll still be here after we are gone.

tiffyandthewall's avatar

if something isn’t hurting me, i tend not to kill it. i can name at least a dozen people who are pests to me, but i wouldn’t even think (much) of crushing them to death.

Urban's avatar

i personally don’t kill anything unless it poses a threat. i do look for egg sacks though and move them outside far away. moths will eventually eat through clothing too though so i would look for green non-killing ways to remove them. some moth research would probably provide an easy answer for you.

bea2345's avatar

I prefer prevention, rather than any other method. For me, the perfect insect control is an insect repellent, rather than an insecticide. If you keep your yard clean and not be too diligent about sweeping away cobwebs, you will have few flies – or at any rate, fewer. There was an insectivorous gecko that lived behind a picture in my mother’s living room: quickest draw in the West.

Harp's avatar

@Trustinglife We have dealt with these Indian meal moths on many occasions. They come into the house in larval or egg form in grain products (we’re vegetarian, so we stock a lot of grain products), then hatch into adults and seek other breeding grounds in your pantry.

Basically, we repackage grain products as they come into the house into tightly-sealed containers. The moths will still hatch from food that was already contaminated (this just goes straight out into the composter once it’s discovered), but they won’t be able to get at other food in the pantry. The few adults that end up flitting around the house get left alone or shooed outside.

Your question about how to balance compassion for one’s self against compassion for other beings reminds me of a Japanese monk named Hakuin who is said to have slept under a mosquito net—but routinely left one leg out so the mosquitoes would have at least something to eat. Hakuin wasn’t on a “Save the mosquitoes” crusade; he was working on himself, working on eroding that sense of separation from other beings. Our reflexive defensiveness and revulsion when faced with pests like these can be an opportunity to take a closer look at the mindset that gives rise to those feelings.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Harp Fantastic Method. We do the same now. Also if it is from a “sketchy” source you can put grains in the freezer for a night and it’ll kill anything if it is in there. Although I’m not sure dead eggs are any better but I guess what we don’t know won’t hurt us? lol

Strauss's avatar

I lke the idea of using the spiders as insect police. Also, our dog likes to snap at flying things.

kapuerajam's avatar

only if it’s alive…

markisgo's avatar

Try to show them the door, and just like a bad guest, if they are not leaving, shoot ‘em.

lovable's avatar

I would scream while killing them. I really just don’t like bugs. I don’t know why I scream every time I kill them though.

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