Marketing Bugs

Monday 4th July 2016

At first sight marketing bugs could be considered in the same bracket as carrying coals to Newcastle and this is despite the great work done by Buglife. If you poll the public for animals they would save bees rate highly topping one recent poll well ahead of the second placed red squirrel. The concept of bees is generally understood and liked however the reality of seeing a bee is somewhat different. In a series of focus groups testing unprompted reaction to various invertebrates all bees except the bumblebee generated a net negative reaction and along with the hoverfly generated suggested identities of wasp and hornet. It is therefore hardly surprising that many honey based products use cartooned bumblebees for marketing rather than honeybees. Consistently the top three bugs for first sight response were the ladybird, the dragonfly and the lacewing.

Ladybirds have long bee a children’s favourite, emblematic of the long running children’s book series now revived for adults. They are also widely known as the gardeners’ friend being voracious consumers of aphids in both adult and larval phase. Dragonflies are beautiful and majestic their study a frequent progression for bird watchers. They too are carnivorous being adept hunters of other bugs on the wing and indeed in nymph form in the water, though I suspect the high ranking is all about appearance rather than the substance of what they do. Lacewings the third party to this triumvirate are also carnivorous and like ladybirds feast on the aphid family though again their high placing is down to appearances being described as fairy like, dainty and fragile. There is one more bug that polls fairly highly and this one is indeed a true bug the shield bug often the masters of camouflage changing with the seasons and sap sucking  from their preferred tree or shrub these bugs are often vibrantly coloured and all a resolute shield shape.

Spiders, bees, hoverflies and stag beetles all of whom perform important positive roles for gardeners and householders alike score lowly as they are viewed first as alien and then as potentially dangerous. While some conservation charities can thrust pictures of cuddly pandas or tigers out to elicit donations the charisma of bug has limited pull. The need for bees, worms and even dung beetles may be understood their annual value to UK farming alone in the region of £1 billion but the giving emotion is for the head not the heart.

Saving slugs and snails has little public appeal and yet by saving them we could boost the thrush, the hedgehog, frogs and toads to name but a few. Bugs need our support just as we in turn need theirs to survive though  their appeal is more to squish than save.