Shark Week and Entomology?

I’ll be honest (it is “confessions of an entomologist” so why not?), I don’t watch “Shark Week” and I really don’t have any interest in it.  Not that I don’t like sharks, they’re awesome.  However I don’t like the premise of these so-called “educational” programs that are more about wild conjecture and scaring and mis-informing people for the sake of ratings and advertising money.  What I have been happy to see is lots of the response to “Shark Week” and how critical that response has been.  Maybe it’s just that I am science oriented and most of my facebook feed that I follow are too, but lots have been denouncing the programming as sharkoutrageous and way less than scientific.  Some other media outlets have also
picked up on it and run nice stories.

So what does this have to do with entomology?!?

Well, there are quite a few myths about insects and other arthropods that make the rounds of the internet every so often.  I was working yesterday and saw the coolest daddy longleg (AKA harvestmen).  I have heard a few versions, but the gist is “they are the most poisonous spider in the world but can’t bite because their fangs are so small.”

  1. They aren’t spiders.  They are related (same class Arachnida) but they are in the order Opiliones while spiders are in the order Araneae.
  2. They aren’t poisonous or venomous.  Most species are omnivorous or scavengers.
  3. They don’t bite and don’t have fangs.  Their mouthparts are little grasping claws.

So the moral of this story?  Don’t believe everything you see on tv, especially when it comes to “educational” channels.  As a scientists, I like to research stuff and the internet is a great resource, but know your source.  Some sites are great (university sites etc.) and some….  not so good.  References and citations are a good thing!

What’s your favorite insect/arthropod myth?  Comment below and share with your friends so they can too!



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