Murder Hornets expose the dark roots of our deepest fears

There’s a science to cute animals—Charismatic Mega Fauna—with their big eyes. They look like babies to us, even if they’re fully grown.

And there are reasons why we are irrationally afraid of the opposite, which I’m naming Scarymatic Mega Trauma.

The fear is there regardless of the actual threat.

Murder Hornets belong in this category. They look scary, even if the actual threat is low, and they have arrived in my square-shaped state on the Left Coast of ‘Murica.

Great White Sharks, crocodiles, and snakes all fall into this category. They have squinty little eyes and sharp teeth and a total lack of pettable fur.

Yet the numbers show we’re completely wrong to fear most Scarymatic Mega Trauma.

HERE COME THE MATHS.

Doesn’t matter.

Still scared of getting into the ocean with them. Thanks, Spielberg. I will never learn to surf because of you.

Sharks kill an average of six people per year. Worldwide. Moo-cows are far more dangerous at 20 per year.

Wolves (scary!) kill 10. Adorable dogs? 17,400.

There are some animals that do scare us for good reasons. Lions, tigers, and elephants are on that list, along with crocodiles, scorpions, and snakes. Do not mess with any of them, or try to have them as pets. Joe Exotic is not a role model.

Others creatures are deadly, but neither scary nor cute. Freshwater snails (4,400) do not inspire fear. They just murderize you.

Goats seem cute, despite their horns. You’re not afraid even if 200 of them take over your streets in California.

The biggest killer is the lowly mosquito, who we see as more of a tiny nuisance than the second coming of Ted Bundy. Mosquitos take out 830,000 people per year, which is insane.

I think our caveman brains explain the lack of fear of the mosquito. We don’t just divide animals into (a) Charismatic Mega Fauna and (b) Scarymatic Mega Trauma. There’s also (c) Can I Take This Wild Animal?

That’s the acid test: if we locked you in the Thunderdome with Animal X, would you come out alive and victorious? You see things like mosquitos as so small and easy to smoosh that it doesn’t register as any sort of threat. With a skeeter or freshwater snail, we’re overconfident. No problem, despite the deadly diseases of the blood sucker or the poisonous venom of the tiny snail. Who’s afraid of a snail? Come on.

So yes, there are Murder Hornets in my backyard, and they qualify as Scarymatic Mega Trauma, but I am not afraid. Keep your snakes and snails away from me, though.

Also: There’s a recent photo on the Series of Tubs of this man holding an adorable little octopus in his hand, except it’s a blue ringed octopus, which has enough venom to kill almost 30 humans. Don’t pick those up.

 

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