bats at halloween

The buzz near your ear. The movement of a smallish animal nearby. The tickle in your hair. What do all of these have in common? They almost always lead to the person experiencing them to scream, squeal, do an odd dance or run. Why? Because they believe there is A BUG!!!! Most people have a negative view of insects/bugs because they know more about or are more aware of those relatively few insects that annoy them or create some problem with their garden, pets or themselves than the many, many other insects that are beneficial. In saying that, I mean that many people take the feelings they have toward one pest insect – a mosquito for example – and place those feelings toward all other insects without knowing anything about them – like a praying mantis. It really is time for all of us to step out of our bubbles in which we believe we need to “control” all insects.

There are more than 1.5 million named species of insects, and scientists believe there may be many million more species that are not yet known to humans. There are three times more insect species than all other animals on earth combined. How many “harmful” or “pesky” insects can you name from that 1.5 million? 5? 10? 15? If you could name fifteen, that is only 0.00001 percent of all known insects. So how can we say all insects are bad and need to be exterminated?

Insects can be found nearly everywhere in the world. The diversity of size, habitat, color, and life history make the study of insects completely fascinating. A pursuit of knowing about all things insect related would be a life-long pursuit – if not longer.

Our lives would be very different without insects, and I am not just talking about pollination of the food-bearing plants we love. Many insects are omnivores, and they might eat plants, dead animals, fungus, nectar, other insects/animals, and decaying organic matter. Some are parasitic, and some are predators. Each has a purpose in helping nature keep pest populations of insects or weeds in check (aka balance of nature). And we cannot forget the decomposers in the insect world. Without them to break down dead animals, dead plants and animal wastes, our land would be piled high with eons of these things. Now that would be a big mess.

Here in the United States, we do not always appreciate the insect role in the food web. Many animals such as amphibians, reptiles, mammals and birds rely almost solely on insects as a food source. In other parts of the world, insects are a main part of the daily diet of humans. They are rich in protein, vitamins and minerals. Plus the nitrogen rich bodies of insects add this much needed element to the soil upon their death and decomposition. Just think of the massive amount of nitrogen that must have been added back to the soil after the trillions of 17-year cicadas of 2004 died. WOW! If you cannot appreciate the value of insects based on their role in the natural web of life, at least try to take some satisfaction in watching the flight of a dragonfly or butterfly. Marvel a little at how ants collectively build a massive underground home and travel long distances with food much heavier than themselves (and do so without a map).


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