The Moral Implications of Killing A Gnat – An Essay

I love nature and I love animals, but I have limits.

I live with and hang out with people who, for the most part, really love nature and all of its creatures – even the creepy crawly ones. I understand that bugs and spiders are an important part of the ecosystem, but if a fly lands within my reach I’m going to kill it.

But the other seasonal workers are totally against this. I once saw a park naturalist pick up a tiny winged gnat/bug/fly thing (one that we have millions of) and LET IT OUTSIDE. He didn’t kill it or smash it, he LET IT BACK OUTSIDE. We also like to sit on the cement porch out in front of the dorm building where the occasional spider likes to toddle by. My immediate reaction is to squish it before it can get anywhere near my bed or my hair, but this clearly bothers many of my friends here at the park. They seriously expect me to let these tiny, egg-laying creatures live.

But what if they lay their eggs in my room? Or worse, in my hair?

Meet my best friend, Raid.

Meet my best friend, Raid.

I would understand if it were mammals. I’m a hunter, but I still find squirrels and birds to be fascinating and sometimes cute. But bugs are different! They’re so tiny you can’t see their eyeballs and they don’t (can’t?) have feelings…right? My friends don’t seem to care either way and always plead for me not to kill the insects.

I just don’t get it.

Last night, for instance, we were watching a movie when a gnat landed on my computer screen. When I say ‘gnat,’ I mean a tiny, fruit-fly-gnat-thing. They’re so tiny you don’t even see them until they land on something. My automatic reaction was to reach out and quickly squish it with my thumb, but my attempt was thwarted.

“Stop, why are you doing that?” my friend grabbed my wrist before I could commit my crime. I, of course, thought he simply hadn’t seen the offending insect.

“There’s a gnat,” I explained. “I’m going to kill it.”

“Why?” he asked.

Why? Why? Because it exists and it’s in my way, that’s why. Because it’s tiny and could maybe bite me and leave a tiny red, itchy welt. Because they’re annoying. Because there are a lot of them and I feel like the population should be depleted a little.

I acknowledge that kind of thinking has started countless horrific events in human history like the Holocaust, genocide in Darfur, and the Spanish Inquisition. Things shouldn’t be eliminated or killed simply because they’re different, they’re in my way or they might do something bad. But I’m talking about bugs, not humans.

But at least I get where my friends are coming from now. That gnat hadn’t done anything bad or harmful towards me…yet. So, I didn’t kill the little guy and let him crawl around on my screen for a good twenty minutes. Maybe I’m a bad person because I killed him the second nobody was looking, but I think the fact that I’m having this inner dialogue about the moral implications of killing insects is at least a small step in the right direction.


4 thoughts on “The Moral Implications of Killing A Gnat – An Essay

  1. Thank you for the good laugh, I totally agree with you. Insects do not belong on computer screens they belong outside. When they come inside they are fair game and if they are on me they are also fair game.

  2. I agree, I’m currently having a brown recluse spider infestation in my house. I found 4 in the last week in random places. It’s more than concerning, it’s frightening! I killed every single one before they had the chance to bite me or my loved ones. Then I called the exterminator. So far no more sightings. My question is what would your friends do if they had fleas in their house?

    • I bet they’d just move and let the fleas have the house. Then the fleas would throw flea house parties and annoy the neighbors with their loud rap music. The cops would get involved and then the fleas would have to stop their partying, grow up, get jobs and support their families. Then the fleas would grow old and die and my friends would be able to move back into their house.
      The end.

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