With spring time right around the corner, embracing a love for nature and the outdoors is something commonly enjoyed by many. While families may love spending time outside and the activities that come with it, the words “love” and “bug” are typically not associated with one another in a positive context. In all honesty, who really loves bugs? Critters of the creepy, crawly category are not particularly loveable! These small, misunderstood creatures are hardly ever welcome in our personal space, yet play a crucial ecological role. Not only do bugs serve as an excellent source of food for larger animals, but they are critical in the process of pollinating our trees, fruits and veggies.
Insects can be found in almost any habitat, varying in species more than any other animal. We may consider bugs to be pests, it’s important to be aware of the benefits some bugs have to offer from an ecological standpoint. Some ways that bugs are vital to our ecosystem include:
- Biological control in agriculture
- Serving as a food source for mammals, fish and other animals
- Biological control for harmful/dangerous pests
- Aiding in the decomposition of dead materials, allowing nutrients to be easily absorbed in our soil
- Pollination by some bugs aids in the production of food for humans
- Being a direct food source for people in many countries! Insects provide protein, minerals and vitamins
Before you make up your mind one way or another about bugs holding a special place in your heart, let’s be sure you have an informed opinion by taking a closer look at a few bugs that we’d have a tough time living without.
With over 20,000 known species of bees, it is difficult to imagine a world without them. It is impossible to think of a world without bees as their existence is essential to human life. Aside from producing wax and honey, bees stay busy by having one of the most important jobs on the planet. There are other insects and elements that aid in pollination such as wind, nothing can compare to the pollination power of bees. While bees are consuming pollen, the micro-hairs on their bodies collect pollen and transfer it from plant-to-plant as they fly. It is the pollination process where various fruits, flowers and nuts are formed. Since bees have very species specific feeding habits, plants of similar species enjoy the full pollination benefits of them.
It is the process of pollination that keeps the world’s plants and flowers thriving from generation to generation. Imagine a world without the beauty of flowers — without popular foods like pumpkins, apples, blueberries and cucumbers. Without pollination these would cease to exist.
The butterfly’s visual appeal and beauty as they flutter from flower to flower is a commonly enjoyed sight. Attracted to fragrant, brightly colored flowers, butterflies are a close second to bees when it comes to pollination and the benefits from it, including the development of plant species.
Simpler in appearance, moths are also considered an important element as they, along with butterflies, are a source of food for other animals, such as birds. Both butterflies and moths create a bodily chemical used to defend themselves against predators. While this chemical may taste bitter to predators, it has proved to be useful for humans, especially for medical reasons. For example, chemicals produced by the Meadow Brown butterfly have help scientists and doctors develop more effective antibiotics.
The bright red exoskeleton coupled with scattered black polka dots is a familiar sight in most gardens. Sometimes referred to as Ladybirds, Ladybugs are natural bodyguards when it comes to the safety and security of a garden. Since they are an effective and organic form of pest control, Ladybugs are used beyond the personal security of a garden. Many species of ladybugs are also used by farmers in the agricultural industry to feed on other insects considered harmful to crops. Ladybugs provide farmers a safer alternative to hazardous chemicals used to keep pests away.
Fruit flies are often cast aside as nothing more than pesky flies that show up when half-eaten fruit is left lying around, however thanks to their frequent breeding habits and genetic makeup, these small insects prove that they are more than meets the eye. For many years, scientists have studied fruit flies and their chromosomes in search of more information regarding genetic variations. As irritating as they are, fruit flies provide valuable data that can be used to understand more on human genetics as they share roughly 75 % of the genes that cause human.
While we may be tempted to simply dismiss all bugs as pests, it is important to show some bugs a little love considering their living habits can be far more beneficial to humans than we may realize at first glance. Our world would be a completely different environment if some of these bugs weren’t around in to regulate our ecosystem and help maintain the world that we have come to know and love.