The insect shown above is a rove beetle. Rove beetles live all around us — in fact, there are 58,000 species in the world — yet you’ve probably never heard of them. They go about their work largely unnoticed and, definitely, unheralded. Yet, without them — and other insects like them — our world would be a very different place. According to scientists, probably one without other wildlife, or humans! So, yes! Insects rule!
First of all, they’re vital as pollinators. Honeybees alone account for 80 percent of all pollination in the United States and affect $20 billion in crops per year. Other pollinators, such as butterflies and wasps, are also responsible for some of the foods we eat, as well as many of the beautiful flowers we enjoy. In 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. Seed- and fruit-eating birds also include insects in their diet. Opossums, raccoons, rodents, squirrels, skunks, bats and foxes eat insects. Snakes, turtles, toads, and fish eat insects. In some cultures, humans eat them, too.
Some insects eat other insects and are important biological controls against “pest” insects. Pests 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, ground beetles, lacewings and hoverflies for helping to keep pest insects under control. Predators are sometimes intentionally released into areas as a natural way to contain out-of-control insects.
Insects decompose garbage, carrion and other dead matter and fertilize soil with their droppings. They aerate the soil and fold nutrients into it with their movements and burrowing. Their tunnels are channels for water.
Insects make materials. Honeybees bring us honey, as well as beeswax, which is used for ointments, polishes, candles, and cosmetics. Silk comes from silkworms, which are moth caterpillars. Certain dyes are made from insects.
On top of all that, we get to appreciate insects for their beauty. Think of the lovely colors and patterns we see on a butterfly’s wings and the striking appearance of dragonflies. And ladybugs are, well, cute as a bug!
*Top photo: Rove Beetle (Platydracus cinnamopterous complex). (WelcomeWildlife.com; cc by-nc-sa 3.0)