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Katharina Hauptmann's picture

One thing from the European mainland I really don’t miss here in Iceland are insects.

According to Wikipedia, around 1,300 known species of insects can be found in Iceland, which is apparently very low in comparison with other countries.

Lucky for us who live here, mosquitoes (Culicidae) do not exist here or on the Faroe Islands, the only two countries in the world where they are not found except of course for the polar regions and crazy hot deserts. The reason why we don’t have any of these nasty buggers here is the cold, changeable weather. For once I am grateful for Iceland’s weather!

There are also very few ticks here. Thanks god. Those are very, very disgusting.

A couple of months ago I attended a butterfly pinning workshop in Reykjavík hosted by Dr. Melissa Whitaker, an evolutionary biologist at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, who is an expert on butterflies. The workshop was great, by the way. According to Dr. Whitaker there aren’t that many butterflies in Iceland but there are some “pretty moths” here. Perhaps one needs to be an entomologist to appreciate the beauty of moths properly, personally I’d rather watch iridescent, colorful butterflies fluttering about. I know, what a surprise. Butterflies are probably the only insects I really miss here. Any perhaps ladybirds and may beetles.

As Eygló described in a previous article about her unpleasant encounter with a wasp’s nest, Icelanders aren’t used to having wasps and bees around them because there are so few of them. Vespidae and Apidae that is, not Icelanders.

“I remember clearly when there were neither wasps nor bees in Iceland. Then one day in the early 1990s, I think, I noticed that they had arrived.” wrote Eygló. Interesting.

That would explain why Icelanders totally freak out when wasps or bees are around. They will tell you this is not true but it is. Every foreigner who lives in Iceland has a giggle over that.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like it either when I’m for instance enjoying an ice cream and a wasp buzzes around it. But I stay calm. Sorry, Icelanders, but you start panicking and scream, fidget frantically with your hands and run away. What a sight! Worst case scenario they sting you a little bit, nobody is going to die, unless you swallow a wasp or are allergic.

I’m not trying to be mean or condescending, but I just find it funny seeing a grown Viking man freaking out over a bumble bee. A bumble bee! The cutest insect in the whole world! Bumble bees are the insect equivalent of kittens, fluffy kittens.

I can understand though how animals you are not used to can scare you. A friend of mine from the U.S. and I talked about this very topic and he told me how his Icelandic wife went bananas when being confronted with a cockroach there. He thought it was very funny because cockroaches are very common in the U.S. I admit I would have lost it as well. Cockroaches are not bumble bees!

I grew up with plenty of bees, wasps and other bugs and even an occasional hornet here and there. I was taught by my parents to stay calm when any of those insects with stingers are around me and to be careful not to accidentally swallow one. I’ve been stung by both bees and wasps many times and I’m still alive and well.

The only insects I’m familiar with that I find utterly useless and nasty are horse flies and gad flies.

No thanks.

Katharina Hauptmann – katha.hauptmann@gmail.com

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.