What makes creepy crawly creepy?

When a buggy thing gives you the creeps, what’s going on? They’re perfectly reasonable (and very successful) creatures. Why cringe? If your skin crawls, is it because you imagine bugs literally crawling across you? Or is it the totally alien nature of their buggy bodies compared to ours? Their endlessly varied spines and hairs, their convoluted inside-out-ness, their crunchy skin filled with undifferentiated goo? You just can’t sympathize with a fly, but it still puzzles me why. Please tell me your theories.

The movie The Fly uses creepy bugginess to good effect, but actually it’s hard for the special effects boys to get bugginess right. What would a fly really look like if it’s head were as big as yours? Nikon has been running a microscopy contest, and the winner this year is a stunning natural-color head-on view of a fly. I was arrested by this image. Most bug snapshots are electron micrographs. They’re beautiful, but otherworldly, hard to place in the real world. But this Nikon prizewinner, it’s easy for me to imagine serving it tea in my living room (be sure and look at the LARGE version). It makes me want to study it and make friends with it, somehow. Imagine a petstore filled with dog-sized flies banging around in large cages as delighted children look on. On second thought, don’t. Too late. Yuck.

Be sure and look at some of the other Nikon winners. It’s one of the best things about living in a technically advanced society: so many fabulous pictures!

2 thoughts on “What makes creepy crawly creepy?”

  1. Another go at the comments…

    Good question–personally, insects freak me out. Maybe the answer lies in evolution. Perhaps those individuals who were creeped out by insects avoided some of the fatal diseases insects brought?

  2. Evolutionarily, shouldn’t Bengal tigers freak us out more than centipedes? But I think (dangerous) Bengal tigers are mighty handsome, whereas (harmless) centipedes disgust me. Particularly this one that lives in my house and can run 50 mph out of the dark place I’m looking into.

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