A Smart Search Takes Down an Assassin Bug

It was a lovely summer afternoon. My husband was off buying supplies for his next home repair job, and the kids and I were hanging out in the pool (in the spirit of transparency, the kiddie pool) in our backyard. At one point, my oldest got out of the pool and headed off to take a joy ride on a nearby tree swing. The next thing I knew, a blood-curdling scream was traveling across the yard. I lept out of the water and ran to my daughter, who was crying uncontrollably and holding one hand with the other.  When she finally regained the ability to speak, I was able to negotiate the ability to look at the point of pain (why is it that kids never want to let go of the injured site to let you take a look?). When I did, I saw a big red welt growing before my eyes. The pain was apparently horrible, and as I inquired about what was an apparent bug bite—was it a bee?  A wasp? Had she heard a buzz?—my daughter stammered,  “No…. A green stick bug.”

A green stick bug…. We went into the house, the welt on her hand now the size of a quarter and still growing (and believe me a quarter-sized welt is a lot bigger on a wee hand than it is on an adult one). As my daughter continued to sob, I grabbed some ice, and then did what any good mom would do – I abandoned my daughter on the sofa (BUT FOR GOOD REASON) to search “green stick bug bite” on my trusty search engine.

And there it was:  “green stick-like bug with painful bite.” In maybe 15 seconds, I’d learned that the green stick bug with a painful bite was a type of “assassin bug” that preys on other insects, killing them by injecting them with paralytic enzymes.  A subsequent  search explained how to treat the bite and what to look for to determine if it were necessary to seek medical attention.

Quick access to information can make you look smart, but in this case it helped me act smartly. While I kept a vigilant eye on the bite, I knew what to look for and how long to give the bite to subside before worrying.  Absent knowing that and fearing the worst as I watched a tiny hand continue to swell, my daughter and I might very well have been on our way to the ER.  I realize that using a search engine isn’t a substitute for seeking care in a life and death medical situation; but in this case, a quick search saved us countless hours of worry, anxiety and time in an ER waiting room.

With all the information out there, it’s imperative that users be smart in terms of how they disseminate it. The first “green stick insect” website I referenced had a disclaimer stating that it’s best to rely on “.gov” or “.edu” sites for reliable information. (It’s apparently more common for commercial sites to offer erroneous information than for a .gov or .edu site to do so—though a domain suffix isn’t an airtight signal of credibility). But the point is well taken that one should be an educated consumer in terms of filtering the vast amounts of information online.

While the green stick insect may have dampened an afternoon by (kiddie) poolside, a 15-second Internet search armed me with enough information to make an educated decision about a next step. That this information is out there (in the cloud, as it were) and so easily accessed is game changing. It moves information to the front lines where businesses and organizations have their own form of green stick insect bites to deal with.

How are online resources helping you act smartly in your business?
How are you able to distinguish credible from not-so-credible information?
Beth Shiroishi Citizenship & Sustainability AVP AT&T About Beth