The practice of eating insects has spread all over Europe and is even making its presence known in the U.S. However, there is one insect you want to avoid ever putting in your mouth. The shore earwig has a special defense mechanism it uses when a larger animal tries to eat it that will make your stomach turn.
The shore earwig can’t really hold its own against larger animals such as lizards, birds, and small mammals. So, their chance of getting shoved inside the mouth of one is pretty high. The shore earwig has therefore developed a special defense that gets them out of trouble fast if they happen to get caught in the jaws of a larger animal. When an animal such as a lizard decides to pop one of these tasty looking critters in its mouth, the shore earwig sprays a vile-smelling substance from their mouth, which makes them taste like rotting animals and feces.
In a study of this phenomenon, lizards that put the earwigs in their mouth immediately spit them out, and never made the mistake of considering one for a snack again. Researchers think that the animals react so strongly to the rotten taste and smell because most vertebrates know instinctually not to eat anything rotten, as they want to avoid botulism, salmonella, and other harmful bacteria that could end up killing them. So, the next time you decide to jump on the wagon and take a chance on insect protein, make sure it’s not a shore earwig first.
Do you think these insects know what something rotten smells like and are mimicking the smell on purpose or is its similarity to the vile smell purely coincidence? Could this defense mechanism have any other purpose?