Humans Need Most of the Bugs in the World
A few bad ones give bugs an undeserved bad rap. We couldn’t exist without insects.
National Geographic posted an interesting article, “Without Bugs, We Might All Be Dead.” How can that be? Most of us have no idea how many jobs they do for the earth.
Though you often need a microscope to see them, insects are “the lever pullers of the world,” says David MacNeal, author of Bugged. They do everything from feeding us to cleaning up waste to generating $57 billion for the U.S. economy alone.
The bold subtitle is an eye-catcher: “There are 1.4 billion insects per person on this planet and we need (almost) every one of them.” The nasty ones (mosquitoes, crop pests, houseflies, locust plagues) should not ruin the reputation of the good ones. Do you enjoy watermelon on a hot summer day? Like the taste of almonds? Those wouldn’t be there with bees to pollinate numerous food crops. Ants—those models of hard work—basically own the world and let us borrow a little of it. And think of the inspiring stories of butterflies, like the Monarchs featured in Illustra Media’s film, Metamorphosis.
In many countries, from Mexico to Japan, people eat insects directly for food. Some countries use leeches for medicine (in fact, western scientists are re-thinking the yuck factor in that). McNeal explains his change of attitude when he researched insects for his book:
Individually, insects are not incredibly interesting, unless you get down on the ground or view them under a microscope to look at their complexity. But they are the invisible force working throughout the world to keep it running.
Bugs are also the basis of the food chain for a rich world of large, complex creatures.
Avoid teaching children to fear and loathe bugs. Let them see their complexity, and hear about the good they do. They should learn to distinguish those that can cause harm or carry germs from those that help enrich our lives, but not to jump up on a chair, scream and spray and the sight of a harmless little bug. The variety of insects, and the lessons they bring for design and biomimetics, is truly astonishing. Live and let live when you can.