Yes, they really do! Earth would be very different place without them.
This is a rove beetle. They live all around us — in fact, there are 58,000 species of them in the world — yet you’ve probably never heard of them. They go about their work largely unnoticed and, certainly, unheralded. Yet, without them — and other insects like them — our world would be a very different place. Probably a place without, well, us.
Many people think of insects (when they think of them at all) as loathsome little creatures who bite, sting, enter houses uninvited, ruin picnics and destroy plants.
First of all, they’re pollinators. Honeybees alone account for 80 percent of all pollination in the United States and affect $20 billion in crops per year. Butterflies, wasps and other insects also are pollinators who are responsible for some of the beautiful flowers we enjoy and the foods we eat. As a matter of fact, some plants rely on a single species for pollination. If not for insects, we’d be out there hand-pollinating our crops in order to survive.
Insects are food for other animals. They’re a primary source of food for birds. Even seed-eating birds and hummingbirds, known for their love of nectar, also eat insects. Opossums, raccoons, rodents, squirrels, skunks, bats and foxes eat insects. Snakes, turtles, toads and fish eat insects.
Some insects eat other insects and are important biological controls against other “pest” insects. Pest insects are a tiny fraction of the insects around us and most of them only occasionally cause serious damage. We can credit predator insects such as rove beetles (shown above), ground beetles, lacewings and hover flies for helping to keep pests under control. Sometimes, predators are intentionally released into areas as a natural way to control out-of-control insects.
Insects decompose garbage, carrion and other dead matter and fertilize soil with their droppings. They aerate soil and fold nutrients into it with their movements and burrowing. Their tunnels are channels for water.
Insects make materials. Honey is, of course, brought to us by honeybees. Beeswax, too, which is used for ointments, polishes, candles, cosmetics. Silk comes from silk worms, which are moth caterpillars. Certain dyes are made from insects.
On top of all that, we get to appreciate some insects for their beauty. Think of the lovely colors and patterns on butterflies. The striking appearance of dragonflies. And ladybugs are, well, cute as a bug.
*Top photo: Rove Beetle (Platydracus cinnamopterous complex). (WW)