Afternoon Inquisition

Sunday AI: What makes things cute?

I’m sure most of you know that Cute Overload has cornered the market on internet cute with their rules of cuteness.  Unfortunately, though, their rules tend to skew a bit….mammal.  “Show your paw pads.”  “Floppy ears are cute.”  Those rules don’t work so well for Arthropods. And many arthropods are quite cute.

Exhibit A: a cute little mite, courtesy of photographer Alex Wild. (He does amazing work; check out his photo gallery.)

I think this little mite is adorable.  It’s rolly-polly, and has wee stumpy legs and fuzzy hair.  CUTE!

It is also, sadly, Varroa destructor.  The white surface it’s standing on? A pupal honeybee.  These mites are itty bitty little bee vampires; they suck the blood of honey bees.  And they cause quite a bit of damage to the honey bee industry.

A 1.5 mm long vampire mite is still cute though, right?

What are the arthropod rules of cuteness?  Does context matter? Can something still be cute even if it is very destructive?


Bug_girl has a PhD in Entomology, and is a pointy-headed former academic living in Ohio. She is obsessed with insects, but otherwise perfectly normal. Really! If you want a daily stream of cool info about bugs, follow her Facebook page or find her on Twitter.

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  1. My niece was accused of kissing a spider. I asked her about it. She said “But it was soooo cute!”

  2. I think the same general rule to cuteness applies to insects as it does to everything else: We must be able to humanize the subject in order to find it ‘cute’. Since insects, however, are about the least human thing on this planet … well, you can think the rest.

    FEAR, on the other hand, is pretty easy to generate if you are a bug. ;-)

  3. Male bumble bees. Sweet, big, buggy eyes. No stinger. Cute. If I were a little surer of my IDing skills, I’d pat their adorable little thoraxes whenever I saw one. Unfortunately, the females are more common, and my IDing skills are not that good. One bumble bee sting is enough.

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