Getting Connected 3: Insects

I have a confession.

I’m afraid of bugs.

And I’m terrified of spiders. This gathered more information than I thought it would, so spiders will be next time. Yay…

To be clear of the bugs, I’m really only afraid of them when they’re in large numbers, like five is the most I can handle, when I can imagine them in large numbers, when they’re big, what kind of bug it is will determine how big it has to be before it freaks me out, and if I know they can attack me like a grasshopper. Grasshoppers are a pretty neutral insect, but I definitely don’t want it on me.

I’m getting better about the spiders. I used just completely panic until I couldn’t even breathe, but then one time no one was home to save me and I had to face my fear.  More than anything I just have this feeling that they’re going to just jump up and attack me. I just don’t want them on me.

Just so you don’t think that I’m just a big ‘fraidy cat about everything, I’m going to tell you that I actually like snakes, frogs, lizards, you name it and I’m probably OK with it. There are some sea creatures that I’m a little apprehensive about running into, but that is most because of their sheer size. I’m pretty easily intimidated and just the thought of how puny I would be just makes me feel a bit overwhelmed.

Some people are just afraid of what they don’t know. Once they have a run in with their said phobia then they go on their merry way without a second thought. Sometimes all it takes is a little research and realize that a whale probably wouldn’t eat you or this or that snake isn’t poisonous makes people feel better. This does not apply to me.

Until I researched bees a few months back, I never really knew how important they were. Most bugs have a similar role in pollinating plants. I’ve always disliked ants (number factor) but I’ve found that even they have a purpose.

Insects, mostly, are very important in the ecosystem.  And here’s why:

Insects aerate the soil, pollinate blossoms, and control other insect and plant pests; they also decompose dead materials, thereby reintroducing nutrients into the soil. Burrowing bugs such as ants and beetles dig tunnels that provide channels for water, benefiting plants (Ants also keep termite and flea populations down.) Bees play a major role in pollinating fruit trees and flower blossoms. Praying mantis because they control the size of certain insect populations, such as aphids and caterpillars, which feed on new plant growth. Finally, all insects fertilize the soil with the nutrients from their droppings.

If all the insects disappeared, life wouldn’t last more than a few months. Without bees we wouldn’t last longer than four years.

Many insects are herbivores, or plant-eaters, which makes them primary consumers. This abundance of primary consumers provides protein and energy for secondary consumers, known as carnivores. There are many secondary consumers, such as spiders, snakes, and toads that could not survive without feeding on insects. Tertiary consumers eat other carnivores; for example, bears and chimpanzees eat insects as well as other animals.

Even termites and cockroaches will have their fifteen minutes of fame in this article. Granted, most people hate them, but that’s because we’ve plopped our fancy, dead wood filled houses right in the middle of their habitat. Termites enrich the soil by breaking down dead trees. Roaches help break down pretty much everything dead. Without them the rainforests would be smothered in decay.

And I think maybe my favorite ‘evil’ insect may now be the mosquito. As we know, mosquitos like damp areas like the tropics. Their bites which cause yellow fever and malaria, among other diseases, keep people away from these areas. People could never enter these places without getting sick. Without mosquitos it’s probably safe to say that the rainforests would have disappeared long ago. Also know that only female mosquitos bite. Males help pollinate. Some species only bite other animals and not humans at all.

Then there are the garden helpers. They keep harmful insects at bay and they’re especially important if you have a garden. These insects include ladybugs, can eat up to 50 aphids a day; praying mantis, assassin bugs (wouldn’t want to cross this fellow) eats flies, mosquitos and beetles; tiny braconid wasps lay eggs on tomato hornworms, eventually killing them as the larvae mature;  tachinid fly and the trichogramma wasp kill cabbage loppers and squash beetles. Cool, right?

Not all insects are beneficial to us, but I think those insects let us know where are limits are. I don’t believe that humans were meant to scrounge around the earth looking to chop down whatever doesn’t suit us. We were meant to live in harmony with the Earth and if it takes a mosquito to put us in our place then so be it. If there is one thing this post was supposed to accomplish, it’s that we shouldn’t use pesticides. Let nature run its course. It knows what is best and sometimes that means that we can’t always have what we want, but we definitely won’t starve because we killed off the ones that we need to survive like the pollinators.

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