Whenever I post a beautiful photo of a spider or insect, the first comment is usually “Kill it with Fire!” As I first explained in 2013, that’s a terrible idea. Yet humans continue to reach new, creative heights of idiocy in their attempts to apply cleansing fire to problems that don’t require incineration in the first place.

The Darwin Awards exist for just this level of stupidity, although one only “wins” that award by dying. Fatalities are thankfully rare in the category of Incompetent Pest Control, but the amount of butt-headedness is remarkable. I hereby propose a new award: The Exothermic Entomology Award, for exceptionally bad judgement in killing invertebrates with fire.

The EE Award criteria are similar to those of the Darwin Awards, with the exception that those receiving the award should survive to, in theory, learn from their mistakes:

  • Excellence: The candidate must show an astounding lack of judgement.
  • Maturity: The candidate must be capable of sound judgment (but not actually use it).
  • Veracity: The event must be verified as real.

Honorable Mention: Halloween Spider Shooting

This story does not involve flames, but it does involve a threat to fire upon a spider. Chris White, the assistant prosecuting attorney in Logan County West Virginia, is said to have bravely defended himself from fake spiders in the office Halloween decorations. County Prosecutor John Bennett, told the local ABC affiliate:

“White has arachnophobia and became irate over the decorations. He said they had spiders every place and he said he told them it wasn’t funny, and he couldn’t stand them, and he did indeed get a gun out. It had no clip in it, of course they wouldn’t know that…”

Our Honorable Mention winner did have strong competition from the dude who reportedly huffed solvents in a department store and thought he was being attacked by bees. The report of an assault with a hornets’ nest in Arizona could not, alas, be verified, although the perpetrator did attack someone whilst brandishing a rattlesnake. The snake could not be reached for comment.

eeASecond Runner Up: Lighters are for Cigarettes, not Insects

This year’s Second Runner Up destroyed two homes and several outbuildings in Dallas by attempting to remove a wasps’ nest with some kind of flammable liquid and a lighter; he won by sheer volume of chaos and destruction.

The other contender was a family in Columbus, Ohio that lost its home in February in a bed bug-related fire. It was unclear if the person wielding the lighter was an adult, so they did not meet the “maturity” award criterion. According to the local TV news:

“We sprayed the couch earlier, uh, some alcohol you buy from the drug store which kills them on contact, and he was chasing one down with a lighter and the couch catch fire,” said Fred Horne, fire victim. That caused the couch to go up in flames. They quickly tried to get the couch out of the house, but it got stuck in the doorway and caught the entire home on fire.

First Runner Up: Exploding Your Rental Car to Kill Bed Bugs

You suspect your rental car has bed bugs. Clearly, the next step is to douse it with a flammable liquid and have a smoke. Scott Kemery of Long Island, New York, repeated what you probably now recognize as a classic Exothermic Entomological pattern in a story recounted by the New York Post:

“He said he had bedbugs in the car, and someone told him if he saturated them with alcohol, it would kill them,” said arson Det. Sgt. Edward Fitzgerald. “So he went and bought some alcohol, he poured it all in there and he sat in his car and lit a cigarette.”

This story from the Philippines seemed to be as much bad luck as bad judgement: A house caught on fire after a smoldering mosquito zapped by an electrical insect swatter fell on a pile of firecrackers stored for the holidays.

The 2015 Exothermic Entomology Award Winner

Hands down, this bozo is the winner. Spot a spider on your gas tank opening while you’re pumping gas? Obviously, the logical thing to do is kill it with fire. Obviously. The surveillance video clearly shows the guy bending over to look at the spider, pulling out a lighter, and then:

Alas, the name of our winner this year remains unknown; I’ve made a couple of phone calls, but no luck. Do let me know if you want to claim your prize, Mr. Anonymous: a package of Smoked Turkey Sausage. I strongly suggest you cook it in a microwave.

Dudes: Put Down The Matches

You may have noticed that there is a distinct gender bias in these awards: Everyone’s male. There is a known male bias in the Darwin Award winners, and I’m afraid that it does appear to be the case for the Exothermic Entomology awards as well. This may be because women seem to dominate a separate category, Driving Under the Influence of Arachnids.

A stunning number of people blamed traffic stupidity on spiders in 2015, including a woman who allegedly abandoned her child in a running vehicle. The child, apparently unperturbed by the spider, climbed out of his car seat and tried to steer the car but crashed into a school bus. And just two weeks ago, a driver caused a four-car accident while trying to swat a spider. Eleven people were injured.

If the winners of the Exothermic Entomology awards and Spider Spinouts teach us anything, it is that we need to chill out and learn to live with our spineless neighbors.

Thanks so much to @badphysics for helping me come up with the appropriate name for this award: Exothermic!

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Hey Guess What Killing Bugs With Fire Is Still a Bad Idea