08/05/2011 09:07 am ET Updated Oct 04, 2011

Insect Facts: What They Tell Us About Ourselves (PHOTOS)

People are more afraid of insects than they are of dying, at least if you believe "The Book of Lists." Only public speaking and heights exceeded the six-legged as sources of fear, although "financial problems" and "deep water" tied with insects at number three. Dying came in at number six. As a scientist, I am not too surprised. People have strong feelings about insects, most of them negative.

Yet for centuries, some of the greatest minds in science have drawn inspiration from studying some of the smallest minds on earth. It's not just that we publish scholarly articles about insects, or use them in our laboratories. Insects are special. We write about "Life on a Little-Known Planet," with "Bugs in the System." We muse about "Little Creatures Who Run the World," and we're only partly joking.

Why is that? What is it that keeps us coming back to insects? Why do they inspire such strong emotions, and what can we learn about ourselves from watching their joint-legged lives? I wrote "Sex on Six Legs" to answer those questions (images from Alex Wild: