I teach my children to respect living things. I am adamant about this - when we're playing and exploring, we spend a lot of time talking about how to respect the world around us. Insects can teach these big lessons.
You can hold the roly-polys, but be gentle with them and put them back where you found them when you're done. Worms are really good, they help plants grow. Yes, you can put them in the compost bin. They'll be happy there. Look at that spider web! Isn't it beautiful! Let's not break it. That must have taken the spider a long time to make. How many dots are on the ladybug's shell? Let's count them and see. Look at that bee - he's pollinating the flower. How cool.
My kids spend a lot of time observing insects, lifting up rocks and looking at what's underneath. Digging in the dirt and finding worms. Spying ladybugs, inchworms, and spiders. They get excited when they find something and call everyone over to look. And we all get on our hands and knees or up on our tippy toes and watch closely. They generally treat backyard bugs with respect, and I am proud of the choices they make.
However, the wonder and admiration they have for all things small and slimy slips away when it comes to grubs. And this is entirely my fault. For all the lessons I wish to teach my children, I wish more to keep the roots of my plants happy and healthy. I'll explain - grubs are on the very short list of things that are okay to squish. Why? Because they are not good bugs. (Cockroaches, mosquitoes, and ticks complete the list.) The pleasure they experience in squishing grubs is a little disturbing, truly.
But they get it, too. That most bugs are good and helpful and fascinating. And that there are just a few that aren't. And for those, we show no mercy.