Insects and their contributions to the environment

insect

Lady Bug

Insects are by far the most abundant organisms in the world. The study of insects is referred to as Entomology.

Insects contribute to the environment greatly through their activities. Insects pollinate many flowers, fruits and vegetables. Many agricultural crops are unproductive without pollination and this definitely reflects on insect importance especially to us as human beings.

Insects add nutrients and oxygen to the soil through their activities and they also provide us with a host of other products such as honey from bees, silk from silkworms and beeswax. Other products are royal jelly, bee pollen, sticky resin and cochineal, a scarlet pigment, both from scale insects.

Royal jelly is known to be rich in vitamins and proteins and is also known for its curative properties therefore used in many skin products. Beeswax on the other hand is useful in production of candles, cosmetics, furniture waxes, leather dressings, medical ointments and for waxed papers.

Tannic acid is yet another product indirectly produced from tiny wasps that secrete a chemical substance causing oak trees to produce gall tissues as a response to this secretion.

Tannic acid is a chemical widely used in the leather industry for tanning and drying and also in the manufacture of some inks. Cochineal has a wide range of uses ranging from textile dye, body paint, medicine (mostly used by Aztec Indians), but due to the number of insects that was required to produce one gram of dye cochineal was used in the past for only the finest of fabrics.

Currently cochineal has been replaced by cheaper dyes but it can still be found in use in cosmetics such as lipsticks, as a food coloring agent and in beverages.

Insects are also a source of food in many parts of the world. Such insects include crickets, cicadas, caterpillars, ants, wasps, termites are all examples of edible insects. Insects are not only edible to humans but to aquatic species as well. Animal species that feed on insects include frogs, toads, trout, turtles, snakes, bats, moles and ant eaters among others. Most insects are high in protein and low in fats.

Insects bring balance to nature by their activities of feeding on plants, decaying matter and dead animals. Through this, insects contribute to the nutrient cycle which is the breakdown of organic matter to produce nutrients for the soil.

Through their boring activities, insects increase soil aeration and increase water infiltration and retention. In doing this, the end result we achieve is more fertile soils which are beneficial for agriculture. Also, owing to their high numbers, insects also contribute to the bulk of organic matter when they die.

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Lighting Beetle

 

Some insects feed on others and this food chain helps keep control of the insect numbers which checks the insect populations. Some of these insects predate on the others that destroy plants and crops. Such insects include lady bug, mason bee, and spined soldier bug. They are referred to as beneficial insects.These insects are important as they help reduce the dependence on natural pesticides which allows for less chemical use.

However, some insects are economically important as they cause damage such as boring of stalks, ruining stored grain, chewing on crop leaves, biting, stinging, disease transmission and destruction of wooden materials. Some insects are also of economic importance as they cause health deterioration and some even cause death in human beings.

Other insects such as dragon flies, praying mantis, butterflies and lighting beetles among others are simply there to make the environment a more beautiful place. They add to the aesthetic quality of life. We can admire or just derive a great deal of satisfaction by watching them as they fly around, pollinate or even mate. Strange as it sounds, insects do make the world a better place.

Let’s indulge in their beauty and peculiarity…