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An Intimate Portrait of an Insect in Love

By Mireya Sánchez-Maes, Contributing Opinion Writer
Mireya Sánchez-Maes ’24 is a joint concentrator in English and Theater, Dance, and Media in Currier House. Her column “Insect Insights” appears on alternate Wednesdays.

You are a young and talented short-horned grasshopper. Your real name is “Syrbula admirabilis” but everyone calls you Chad. You’re hungry. And although Harvard University Dining Services more than accommodates your aggressively vegan diet of grasses and seeds, this hunger is different. It’s deeper, more intimate, and makes you think of that one slow song from the movie with the animated lions. You, Chad, are hungry for love.

But alas! What do you know of the art of romance?! Like all members of your species, your sexual emergence occurred relatively late in life. To be fair – it’s not that you’ve never thought about it before. After all, you once rubbed mandibles with a gifted leaf beetle on the last week of science camp! But that was nymph stuff. You’re mature now, so your sole purpose is to get it on with a suitable mate.

You’re not alone in this quest. You start to notice couples all around you. On your way to class, you see a pair of love bugs. You know they’re love bugs because after mating once, it becomes physically impossible for them to separate. They do everything together. This is cute at first, but after a while, it becomes increasingly difficult for you to remember who is who. They have the same problem. You feel very superior to these bugs.

Passing the library, you see a group of fruit flies. Those poor creatures haven’t left the building in the past 48 hours. They look tired. You remember reading that “sex-starved fruit flies live shorter, more stressful lives.” You feel superior to these bugs, too.

It is time. You begin your courtship by aggressively stridulating in the vicinity of any female who crosses your path. The shrill mating call emulating from your torso sounds suspiciously like the “about me” section of a LinkedIn page. A very pretty cicada walks up to you. She’s like, “why are you shouting about finance interviews” and you’re like, “because I’m a freak in the google sheets.” She rolls her eyes and walks away.

This deeply troubles you. You begin to question yourself. “Does this Patagonia make my thorax look big? Why am I still solo? Could it be possible that… I’m not irresistibly charming and attractive?” This thought makes you shudder. You’ve never been rejected before, and you decide you don’t like it.

To assuage your insecurity, you join a swarm – a hoard of self-entitled bugs who collectively bemoan females who won’t date them. Secretly, you hope this new swarm will help you find a mate, but you quickly realize that the Porcellian is predatorial and off-putting. You’re more alone than ever, and this makes you desperate.

You start skipping class. You become increasingly more aggressive in your courtship rituals. You join the Harvard College Consulting Group. Oh Chad, how lost you have become! But your destructive behavior does not go unnoticed. You receive a text message from your suitemate, a self-actualized stick bug named Mia. She says she’s noticed a change and is worried about you. She invites you to grab some pizza and chat.

You almost accept the invitation, but then remember you’re vegan. Frustrated, you rebuke Mia. What does she know? Mia says, “I know a lot actually.” She proudly tells you that stick bugs hold the record for the longest hookup in the insect world. You say, “Wow, really?” She says, “Yes. It is 79 days long.” You are impressed and ask her how to do this. She tells you to stop being a bro and respect other insects. Then she tells you to chill. She says that stick bugs mate if they want, but if a suitable partner isn’t available, they copulate individually. You say, “Ew gross.” She says, “No. It’s about being comfortable with yourself, even if you’re not in a relationship.”

You decide that Mia is too preachy and never talk to her again.

You hit da club. A group of prey mantises dances at the opposite end of the room. You crawl in their direction, employing every courting ritual you know. You twitch your palps, kick your legs, and wave your antennae to the tune of Bad Bunny’s “Yo Perreo Sola.” They scowl at you. You shake your antennae even harder. After much gesticulating, a sexy prey mantis moves in your direction. You can see the hunger in her eyes. Oh yeah, you think. Finally, a female who deserves me!

With the snap of her foreleg, she pulls you close. Well done, Chad! You feel pretty good about yourself. Hell, you might even go to lecture tomorrow! She leans towards you, her antenna pulsing. Woah there. You’re suddenly nervous. After all, you’ve never done this before! But just as you open your mandibles to explain this complex flood of fear and insecurity, she wraps her spiky appendages around your body and bites your head off.

This valentine’s day, be a Mia. Not a Chad.

Mireya Sánchez-Maes ’24 is a joint concentrator in English and Theater, Dance, and Media in Currier House. Her column “Insect Insights” appears on alternate Wednesdays.

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