By Arnold Malone
Pioneer Columnist
Fresh old ideas

When we think of insects, we might envision those pesky mosquitoes, the ants that mess up our sidewalks or the splatter of bugs on the grill of your new Buick. Too frequently, we think of insects as bad. Sometimes, they are the source for screeching terror, “Eee gad, look at that ugly thing.”

In truth, if we could kill all insects, then all other living creatures would die in a matter of months, soil fertility would diminish and plant life would start to die.

Insects are located from pole to pole on the surface of the earth. The insects that have been identified and named number in excess of one and a half million out of an estimated ten million species. While most are concentrated in moist and warmer areas, some are in our coldest climates. My canoeing friends joked that their tents along the Mackenzie River were protected from those massive mosquitoes with chicken wire.

The range of diet for insects is more diverse than our own. They consume plants, fungi, dead animals, decaying organic matter and even oil on the surface and in the ocean. Insects are tremendous decomposers. They also produce a direct benefit by pollinating our flowers, vegetables, produce honey, and make beeswax.

Without insects and bacteria, dead animals would accumulate. There would be dead animals everywhere. Of all of the species of insects, very few cause harms to us, humans. Most insects play an essential role in allowing nature to be balanced and function as we now enjoy.

So, the insect world flies over us, burrows beneath us, crawls on whatever, and chews everything and anything. They are the great transformers. Nevertheless, the population of insects is decreasing at a startling rate.

In some parts of the world, insects may very well decrease by one-third over the next two decades. Forest fires, climate change, herbicides and new agricultural practices worldwide have all had a part in decreasing the number of insects.

Not all insect populations are declining. In fact, some species are increasing in numbers. Yet, if we fail to be concerned about the decrease of the insect population, there will be a negative impact on the world’s human food supply. The importance of these tiny creatures cannot be overstated. All other life, silently and unwittingly, is dependant upon the survival of insects.

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In part, the good news is the extraordinary adaptability of insects. New species arise as some die. Nevertheless, the total number of insects has dramatically decreased over the past half-century. Sadly, three quarters of the insect population has vanished over the past thirty years.

Much of the decrease in numbers of insects is related to specific plant reduction. The Monarch butterfly is one species that depends on Milkweed for its existence. The decrease in prairie pasture lands has impacted their numbers. We would be wise to plant a lot of Milkweed in our communities. Changes in other plant life affect many other species. The increasing occurrences of extreme weather is another factor in the diminishing numbers of insects.

The Western Bumble Bee has decreased by 93 per cent in just two decades. If ten per cent of our lawns, parks, and grasslands were left natural, then more than four million acres of insect habitat could be enhanced in the U.S.

We do get bugged by some insects, but overall, they are a primary requirement for life. They are the great transformers from useless to useful.

Yes, you can go ahead and swat a mosquito because there is an abundance of animals and human arms to provide a Happy Meal for these uninvited creatures. As for other insects, we must demonstrate that we are concerned.