Do Bugs Get Sick?

Photo by  Denise Johnson  on  Unsplash

I was sitting on my porch when a fly came into my personal space. He buzzed around my head and, very naturally, landed on me. I wasn’t feeling well that week as I was fighting a cold my son so graciously shared with me. My younger, more curious mind made an appearance and I asked the question, “Can I give this fly my cold?” I was really hoping I could.

I really hate insects; buzzing around my head, making shots at my ear, their tiny nonsensical legs, and just generally pissing me off on a regular basis left me with nothing to love. I wanted it to feel as crappy as I did. Someone once said to me, “If they’re outside they’re insects—but if they’re inside, they’re bugs.” Makes sense. But either way, they’re an entity I choose to despise regardless of their status in the circle of life.

Although there is no research I could find that shows an insect can be infected the way we are with the common cold (I picture a tiny house fly with a microscopic hanky wiping mucous from his mouth parts after a wee sneeze attack) there is an entire field dedicated to insect pathology. With my strange thought as a platform for discovery, I found all kinds of new branches of what I would consider underground science.

The most publicly known topic in the insect the pathologist’s agenda right now is Colony Collapse Disorder. In 2006, beekeepers in America were seeing 30-90% of their bee colonies just disappearing over-night with no explanation, trace, or even a clue to speculate on the mysterious disappearance. Insect pathologists burst into action to find the cause. They’re still working on the causes and effects in this department, but there has been significant research and studies on neonicotinoids having a deathly effect on pollinators. Insecticides with the neonic are now being banned across the world; such bans are active in Canada and in Europe. This field of study is fascinating, and easily steals you into the rabbit hole of the internet, yet it still didn’t answer my question.

With a bit more digging I came to a very reasonable and easy answer, cited from a guy who goes by the name Klenow on Reddit. He works in biotech (whatever that may entail, good luck to you). He stated that, although they can contract the cold virus, their respiratory system works nothing like ours and wouldn’t be affected the way we humans are. No mini hanky for you, fly!

That being said, it’s still important to know that flies thrive and survive off excrement and carcasses. They carry bacteria around like they’re the local transit system. Salmonella, E. Coli, and typhoid are just a sample of terrifying bacteria they could drop off at any given time. If that doesn’t make me hate them even more than I already did, well, the word loathe now comes to mind.

Related Articles

Giving House Flies a Virus to Prevent Reproduction

Insects Get Sick Too: The Study of Insect Pathology

Chloe Vincent


Chloe Vincent is an avid reader, aspiring writer, and lover of culture. Being in her second year of Professional Writing at Algonquin College and a new mother there’s always another step to take to get further. Check out her children’s book “The Life of a Pie” at the Connections store and always check back here for more.