The show Mythbusters recently did an episode themed on bugs. One of the segments was about a biker being killed by hitting a bug. The myth was based on death caused directly by the bug strike, not secondary factors such as injuries from the crash caused by the bug strike.
They used a 2011 Victoy Kingpin. The motorcycle was mated to a custom Motorvation Engineering Spyder sidecar so that they could set up a test dummy with a force detector mounted where the head would usually be.
Checking with a physician they were told that a force of 75 pounds directly on the cartilage of larynx could crush it, causing the rider to suffocate. So the question they had was, is there a bug that could generate that much force if the rider hit it going 85 mp? The Myth barely squeaked into the plausible category, requiring the largest member of an exotic species, not native to North America, to hit a tiny spot that is usually well protected.
OK, so the chances of meeting your demise by gigantic insectoid is comfortingly slim. But any biker can tell you that bugs can certainly get your attention. I classify their annoying characteristics into 3 major categories. Stingers, Splatterers, and Bangers.
Stingers usually have to wind up inside your clothing or helmet the do much damage. An angry bee or wasp buzzing around between your eyes and face plate can be a bit of a distraction. I know of one rider who ran off the road after such an encounter. Fortunately, he survived the incident with only a little swelling from the stings.
Bangers are hard shelled bugs large enough to cause pain with their mass. Bumblebees and June bugs come to mind. During the summer I wear a half shell helmet. I wear glasses and rarely use a face shield or goggles. I do have tall windshields on both of my bikes that give me protection. I’d imagine a Banger in the eye would cause problems. I’ve taken a few hits on the arms and legs that hurt pretty bad, but nothing that caused enough distraction to be a real danger.
Splatterers are those flying bags of goo surrounded by a bug body that make such a mess on your windshield. It’s hard to name a species based on the remains of an encounter, but they must be mainly some fat, soft-bodied bug capable of flight. As hard as the mess can be to clean up, I think some of then were sucking on a tube of Superglue right before they flew into my bike. The sun in front of you can turn a bug gut smeared windshield opaque. Try topping a hill and having your windshield go opaque a second after spotting the oncoming 18-wheeler. That’ll get the adrenaline going.
But if you’re going to ride a motorcycle, the bugs are a part of the experience. I’ve heard that a real biker can identify the species by the taste.
－ Guy Wheatley