If There Were No Bugs…
As a pest control company, we mainly talk and write about how to control and eliminate insects from our homes. But what would happen if we removed bugs from our lives completely? If all insects, or even a critical few, were to disappear—if there were none to pollinate plants, serve as food for other animals, dispose of dead organisms, and perform other ecologically essential tasks—virtually all the ecosystems on earth, the webs of life, would unravel.
Insects pollinate many of our fruits, flowers and vegetables. We would not have much of the produce that we enjoy and rely on without the pollinating services of insects, not to mention honey, beeswax, silk and other useful products that insects provide. Aside from the obvious bee pollinators, beetles are actually responsible for pollinating 88 percent of the world’s plants. And there are other animals, large and small, that are also critical in pollinating flowers.
This process, in which insects transfer pollen from one plant to another in search of nectar and other nutrients, plays a critical role in the ecosystem and the economy. Seventy-five percent of flowering plant species rely on insects to pollinate other plants for fertilization. About one-third of all food and beverages are delivered by pollinators. In the US alone, $20 billion worth of products are produced annually due to pollination.
Predatory and parasitic insects are very valuable when they attack other animals or plants that we consider to be pests. Using non-pesticide options like biological controls as an alternative has many benefits. It reduces the likelihood that pests will develop a tolerance to pesticides, which results in ineffective chemical control. It is safer for the environment, and it is sometimes the only feasibly economical way to control pests — especially invasive species that occupy thousands or millions of acres of land. The balance of nature depends on the activities of parasites and predators, the majority of which are species of insects.
Insects that feed on dead or dying plant tissues, dead animals, or on the feces of other animals – called saprophages – are helpful by eating these resources and breaking down nutrients to support plant growth. Without these beneficial decomposer bugs to help dispose of wastes, dead animals and plants, our environment would be messy indeed.
Insects are the only food that sustains certain species of birds, fish and amphibians. Without insect life, the food chain would be severely compromised, since many higher order animals and birds rely upon lower ones for food. If the insects were to be destroyed, many species would also be wiped out.
Insects themselves are harvested and eaten by people in some cultures. They are a rich source of protein, vitamins, and minerals, and are prized as delicacies in many third-world countries. In fact, it is difficult to find an insect that is not eaten in one form or another by people. Among the most popular are cicadas, locusts, mantises, grubs, caterpillars, crickets, ants and wasps.
Insects make our world much more interesting. Naturalists derive a great deal of satisfaction in watching ants work, bees pollinate or dragonflies patrol. And photographers revel in their beauty for that perfect shot. People benefit in so many ways by sharing their world with insects.
In spite of all their positive attributes, some insects can cause problems. If those pests are rocking your world, consult a pest control specialist.