The Unknown Value of Insects

Denzil Prato

February 28, 2022

If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos – E. O. Wilson, American biologist, naturalist, and writer; June 10, 1929 – December 26, 2021.

On this influential week of World Wildlife Day 2022, the theme of the event being “Recovering key species for ecosystem restoration”, just shows us how much harder we will have to work to save our planet. The literal examination of the first letter of this years’ theme states “Recovery”, reinstating that we have already damaged or extinct key species and its high time to recover from this damage.

Let’s take a common context, ‘Wildlife’. When we put ourselves to think of ‘Wildlife’, towering Giraffes, glorious Elephants, majestic Lions, suspenseful sharks, mischievous Monkeys and comedic Hyenas. Surely, we can think of more different sorts of animals, there are a lot of varieties on the Earth, but how much do we just spend time thinking about insects? Sure they are creepy crawlies and they aren’t appealing to look at. But they do make a major part of Wildlife. How major? According to the Royal Entomological Society, Insects are estimated to make up to 90% of all the species of plants and animals, i.e., more than half of all living things. Insects occur in almost every habitat, from mountain ranges to the hottest deserts on the planet as well, even in Antarctica!

With the universal dislike towards insects, we tend to underestimate their value to nature and the evolved workings that nature has perfected up to the umpteenth degree. To understand the services that we as humans directly acquire from insects range all the way from clothing like silk, cosmetics by extracting lipids (an organic fat) from insects, food as the pupae of many species are consumed as a good source of protein, medicines like Apitherapy and maggot-therapy, dyes from Cochineal insects and recycling of organic matter which are done regularly by unseen soil arthropods.

With the trend that is ongoing on our Planet, with global warming, climate change and food scarcity, it has been reported in various studies that in the last year the rate of insect loss measures up to 2.5% per year for the last 30-35 years. That is an alarming statistic where we need to contemplate the gravity of the situation we find ourselves in. An analysis from the Journal of Biological Conservation, says the main cause of this unexpected cause, is intensive agriculture combined with the heavy use of pesticides and insecticides. The hardest hit is perhaps the most beautiful of all, the Butterfly, where it has been observed that 58% of butterfly species on farmland don’t occur anymore.

To sum up, there are about 7 million ants per person on this Earth. With those sorts of numbers, we can analyze the precious natural services that a combined force of 7 million ants can do, which is not comparable to any other species on our planet. Hence the unsightly sight of disappearing insects is something we can’t contemplate on. To help and to do our part, we can take some remedial actions like re-wilding a corner of your garden to make it more habitable to insects, using fewer chemicals like pesticides and insecticides for farming and building a pond on a wildland. All of the suggested recommendations is an ecological and sustainable way to promote the population of dying insects by giving them a home to cohabitate with humans.