Everything you need to know about Bugs and Pain

If you enjoy reading this article, why not check out our articles on Which Bugs Make the Best Pets? The Complete Guide and Can You Keep Ladybugs as Pets?

General Facts About Bugs And Pain

Do bugs feel pain?

There are so many species of insects out there in the world, but if you’ve ever squished one, chances are you’ve asked yourself if they felt it.

While squishing an insect may seem harmless, sometimes we wonder if they suffer, right?

We know that insects feel something, but it’s probably not the same type of pain that you and I would feel.

Let’s take a look.

Do insects feel pain… at all?

When it comes to insects and pain, unfortunately, the answer is far more complicated than a simple yes or no. This is due to the fact that it’s hard to tell what something else is really feeling. While this may be true, we do have some insight into what exactly insects feel when they’re in danger of being killed.

Is it… pain?

Insects, typically, have an exoskeleton. Think of this skeleton as armor to protect whatever is inside them. Once this exoskeleton becomes shattered, any insect has a pretty good chance of falling victim to an untimely demise. While the skeleton is important, we’ll come back to that piece in just a moment. The exoskeleton is one of the reason that ants are so strong. Read more about that in How Strong Are Ants Compared to Humans?

The most important thing to understand about insects, and pain, is that they do have a similar nervous system to us. This means that they’re able to feel things to an extent, but the evidence seems to show us that the pain an insect feels is not exactly the same as ours.

Do bugs feel pain when you squish them?

We don’t want to be too philosophical here, but the pain is subjective, so what we might consider pain might be much different than what an ant considers pain to be.

The type of pain insects feel, most of the time is much different than ours. This is due to the fact that they feel irritation instead, and while they may have a sense of when their skeleton is broken, it’s likely not painful. This is due to the fact that insects don’t seem to limp around, and even if their exoskeleton is shattered, they’ll still try and find a mate. The limb may not work, but it doesn’t seem to hinder them in the same way a broken leg or crushed spine would hinder us.

Can insects feel pain?

So when it comes to pain, in insects, they definitely feel something, but it’s not exactly the same type of pain you would feel. Think of it as a danger signal, or an irritation instead.

Can insects feel fear?

Before we get into some of the specific insects, and how they feel pain, it’s important to take a look at their emotions. This is due to the fact that pain is emotional at times, and while we may suffer, if an insect lacks that ability pain would be much different.

So let’s take a look and determine whether or not insects can feel emotions like fear.

Insects should never be underestimated because they truly are smart little creatures. They can build nests, hives, and even homes within your home. While they may be complex, they feel things much differently than we do. Sure, they have a nervous system, but it functions in a different way than ours.

This means that while they may respond to fear, or danger, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they get that same sudden rush of fear that you would get if a giant bear ran towards you. So when we consider this question, we also need to look at it in the same way we look at pain.

So can they feel fear?

Insects don’t have complex learning in the same way we do. They lack emotional intelligence and don’t learn from previous mistakes. This is due to the fact that insects live for a short period of time, and in a way, they’re programmed like robots to serve a few key functions. Are some of those functions complex? Absolutely, but that doesn’t mean they feel things.

So when it comes to fear, just like pain, insects may run from danger, but that doesn’t mean they feel the same emotional distress that we would. Insects may respond to damage, pain, mating, senses, and other human like experiences, but their responses are system based instead of emotion-based. This means, that without that emotion, they really don’t feel fear the same way that we do.

We know this is probably like reading out of a philosophy textbook but stick with us here because the philosophy portion of this article is definitely over. As for fear? Chances are they don’t get that same chill down their spine as we do.

Do spiders feel pain?

Spiders are an interesting type of bug to think about, because they’re much different than most other bugs. Some spiders may be small, while other spiders are literally out there eating small mammals. So when it comes to spiders, that pain question becomes much more interesting to look at.

How do they feel pain?

Spiders are a bit different than your run of the mill cockroach or ant. This is due to the fact that they come in so many different shapes and sizes. Just like house cats and tigers, there are house spiders and tarantulas. With a much wider range of species variation present in spiders, there is quite a bit for us to look at, but the answer is actually very similar across the board.

Do spiders feel the love?

Spiders are pretty interesting because when they’re attacked in the leg region, they’ll actually detach their limbs. Okay we know that sounds crazy, but that’s really what they do. While this is common, and could just be a response like other bugs, this is not exactly the case with spiders. This is due to the fact that it’s not an automatic response. For example, sometimes a spider can be too late when detaching a limb and can fall victim to venom.

Why is being too late important?

Being too late is important because it shows that pain, in spiders, is a bit more than just a programmed response. They must feel something significant enough to cause them to do this, and while sometimes it may seem automatic, this is not always the case. This has also been tested out with injections that humans would consider quite painful.

Can spiders smell fear?

When a spider was pricked with something harmless, there was a reaction, but not a huge one. On the other hand, when a spider was pricked with something painful, the response was much more profound. This tells us that spiders might actually feel pain in a similar way that we do. It’s not just a programmed response, but maybe a level of suffering.

Do spiders love humans?

Every species of spider is so different than the next that it can be hard to determine if it’s the same across the board, but based on genetics, there is a pretty good chance that most spiders feel pain in the same way that we do… or at least close to it.

Do insects have brains?

If an insect lacks pain, like we discussed earlier, you’ll probably be sitting there thinking that they lack a brain too. This is a common thought, because they do seem like little robots sometimes, but this is actually not the case. Insects definitely have brains, and those brains are attached to a nervous system just like ours.

So what’s the difference?

Aside from being super small compared to the size of our brain, their brains are much more primitive. Their nervous system, and brains, are essentially just a way for the insect to move around. Plus, as we mentioned before, their brains don’t have room for emotions or pain in the same way that we do. Plus, believe it or not, some insects like cockroaches even have multiple brains. Pretty weird right?

What about spiders?

Now, if you thought insects didn’t have brains, well this is where we’ll tell you that you’re sort of correct. Spiders do not have brains, well at least not like our brains. In spiders, what acts as their brain, is a collection of neural cells located all throughout their bodies (mostly in clusters).

So in terms of structure, this is not exactly a brain, but it serves the same purpose. Plus, in some spiders, their brains can even extend down to their legs, which is one of the reasons they may feel pain in a more similar way to us than other insects.

When it comes to insects, it’s easy to write them off as brainless. They don’t really seem to do all that much, but there is much more beneath the surface. Every little insect swarming around has some type of “brain” function.

The question of whether spiders have brains is fascinating – if you want to learn more check out our article Do Tarantulas and Spiders Have Brains?

Does this apply to all insects?

The tricky part about determining whether or not insects, as a whole, feel pain is that there is such a wide variety. With that being said, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have a good idea of whether the rule applies to most insects. This is due to the fact that most insects have many traits in common.

Let’s take a look at the traits of a cricket:

  • Lack nociceptors
  • Brain is very small
  • React to pain, but it doesn’t hinder them like it would a human being
  • They have a nervous system that promotes a response
  • They have habits
  • They only live for about 6 weeks at a time

Now, when you look at a lot of those traits, they’re very similar to what we’ve discussed in previous sections. Therefore, it’s safe to assume that most insects simply don’t have the mental capacity to feel fear or pain in the same way that we do. With such a short lifespan anyway, pain is sort of irrelevant in insects.

Every insect will have some level of variation, but to be quite honest with you, if you squish an insect it’s not going to suffer.

Final Findings

When it comes to insects and pain, it can really be quite confusing. Plus, what makes matters much worse, is that this is still an open debate. Nobody knows the real answer, but it can be reasonably assumed that insects do not feel pain in the same way that we do.

Well, at least not most of them, spiders are one of the few species that really stands out. Plus, spiders are pretty unique and don’t share a lot of traits with insect species anyway.

We know that there was a lot of philosophy and science at play during this article, so if you ever find yourself a bit lost, you can always feel free to refer back to this article as a guide to help you along the way.

Most insects don’t feel pain in the same way that we do, so the next time you squish one, hopefully, you’ll feel a little less guilty about it.

If you enjoyed reading this article, why not check out our articles on How Strong Are Ants? Let’s Find Out! and Can Ants and Worms Live Together?

Steve Foster

Mad about bugs and wanting to publish as many articles as I can to help educate people about these amazing beautiful creatures! For more info check out my about page https://schoolofbugs.com/about-steve-foster/

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