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"How Do Insects Impact Our Ecosystem and Why Are They Important?"




Are you freaked out by creepy crawlers, flying menaces, and the slinky slimy? Does the thought of a hairy long-legged send shivers down your spine? These tiny prehistoric creatures can be quite bothersome when they suddenly crawl up your arm, buzz around your face, or when you accidentally walk into their sticky web. It's undeniable that most people dislike insects so much that they want to eradicate them from the planet. You only need to look at the shelves of a store stocked with insect killers to realize this. The disdain for insects is fervent and widespread. Popular opinion suggests that they are nothing more than invading pests that make us squeamish in our homes and spaces.


bumble bee pollinating aster flower
bumble bees love aster flowers

THE IMPORTANCE OF INSECTS


While you may think insects are nuisances and undesired pests, their environmental role is essential. These hardworking creatures perform various tasks vital to maintaining a healthy ecosystem. They pollinate plants, recycle nutrients, control insect populations, clean up dead plant and animal matter, and provide a food source for many animals. 


Take bees, for example, the buzzing little creatures responsible for pollinating many fruits and vegetables we consume daily. Without bees, we would lose a significant portion of our food supply. Wasps and flies also play a role in pollination, while ants and beetles help to break down organic matter and return nutrients to the soil. Even the unpopular grasshopper is busy controlling plant growth and breaking down dead plant matter for nutrient cycling.


beautiful green grasshopper
grasshoppers are beneficial

You may be surprised to hear - that those unwanted snails and slugs in your garden are also pollinators, expert garbage collectors, and recyclers. Butterflies and moths are not only beautiful to look at, but they also serve as important pollinators for many types of flowers. If you have butterflies, they will also attract native bees. They are both nectar lovers, so plant some lavender, verbena, asters, and snapdragons, to name just a few. Don't forget the caterpillars, who can't resist milkweed. If you see a lot of butterflies in your garden, it's a good sign that your ecosystem is healthy.


leopard garden slug
slugs are also pollinators

Insects are also an important food source for many animals, including birds, frogs, and lizards. Without insects, these animals would struggle to find enough food to survive. Sadly, many insect species are declining (at a rapid pace) due to habitat loss, pesticide use, climate change, and pollution. We must realize their ecological importance and work to protect their habitats. By doing this, we can help to ensure a healthy and thriving ecosystem for ourselves and future generations.


*Insects have a purpose, and their work is vital.

*We need insects to balance our ecosystem.


tiger swallowtail on verbena flower
butterflies equal a healthy ecosystem

PROTECTING INSECT POPULATION


Now that you know that insects are essential components of our planet's ecosystem and play a crucial role in pollination, nutrient cycling, and providing food for other animals - you must also know that using pesticides harms these delicate creatures and the broader ecosystem they support. Not only are insects affected by pesticides, but birds, animals, and other beneficial organisms can also be harmed or killed. Worse still, the use of pesticides can lead to ecological genocide without one even realizing it. These toxic chemicals have been linked to severe health issues in humans, indicating that we should avoid using them at all costs. As responsible citizens, it's our collective responsibility to protect the planet and all living things. We must explore alternative methods that do not involve pesticides.


Integrated pest management is one such method that involves using multiple strategies, such as crop rotation, beneficial insects, and physical barriers. For people looking for simple and natural alternatives for their home and garden - try cucumbers, garlic, or crushed bay leaves to keep cockroaches away, while chives, basil, and mint will keep aphids at bay. Alternatively, releasing ladybugs in your garden can help control aphids naturally. Besides being adorable, do you know a single ladybug can eat up to 60 aphids daily? If you find grasshoppers grazing where you don't want them grazing, spray garlic oil in the area of concern (a safer and kinder solution than using a dangerous pesticide.)


ladybugs on blue phlox
ladybugs find aphids irresistible

Building a native garden can promote a healthy ecosystem and protect insect populations. Native plants provide food and habitat for insects and are adapted to the local environment, making them easier to grow and maintain. If you need help choosing the best native plants and flowers for your zip code, visit native plant finder


It's important to note that keeping your yard too tidy can harm insect populations. Insects and all wildlife are fighting to survive through the fall and winter months. Much is happening behind the scenes under those leaves and debris, like metamorphosis and mating. When you rake clean and blow relentlessly, you destroy vital insect and animal habitats. If you can be patient, the debris will break down at some point and leave you with natural fertilized mulch. All those creatures you see flying, crawling, and wiggling in the spring had to fight to survive the colder months. So give these little fighters a helping hand and leave your yard untidy, or at the very least, leave a designated area for a native, unkept wildlife haven. A lively and bountiful garden awaits.


white-lined sphinx caterpillar
metamorphosis awaits

For years, Entomologists have been sounding the alarm that humans have been trying too hard to eliminate insects from the planet by clearing out their natural habitats with pesticides, insecticides, and the need for manicured yards. As a result, the Earth now lacks vital biodiversity, leading to an unbalanced ecosystem, which has caused a decrease in native and crucial insect species while allowing hardy invasive disease-carrying insects like mosquitoes to thrive. If we had a healthy frog population, this might not be much of an issue, but they too, are a dwindling species for the same reasons.  As you can see, eliminating one species can have a monumental ripple effect on the rest of the ecosystem, hence the imbalance.


Some states have adopted laws regarding the use of noise and air-polluting blowers but have not yet implemented them.  I must include - nothing can ruin a relaxing day in the yard than the sound and smell of a maddening blower. 


*Don't use toxic chemicals.

*Plant a native garden, and keep it wild and unkempt.


white-lined sphinx moth
metamorphosis is magical

OVERCOMING FEAR OF INSECTS


You are not alone. Many people fear insects, also known as Entomophobia, which can be a learned behavior. However, irrational fear can lead to cruel and violent behavior towards these innocent creatures. It is important to remember that insects are minuscule compared to humans, and most pose no threat to us. Instead of screaming, crying, or panicking when you encounter them, try to understand they have a purpose, and this purpose isn't to annoy you. 


If you find an insect outside your comfort zone, gently take it outside in a glass. This way, you will save a life and feel good about it. Scientific research has shown that even these tiny beings have brains and are capable of experiencing pain. Therefore, treating them with kindness and respect can contribute to a more harmonious and healthy world.


Irrational fears of insects can also prevent individuals from enjoying outdoor activities and appreciating the environment. Coping strategies can be helpful to overcome this fear, such as exposure therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Exposure therapy involves gradually increasing exposure to insects to help individuals become more accustomed to their presence. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps individuals change their negative thoughts and beliefs about insects to more positive ones. 


orb-weaver spider
spiders are talented designers

It is okay to feel uneasy, but we can work together to overcome those fears and appreciate that insects have a purpose here on Earth. Treating these fragile creatures with kindness and appreciation will help us overcome our irrational fears and create a deep respect for all living beings. We must remember that insects play a vital role in our ecosystem, pollinating plants, decomposing organic matter, and serving as food sources for other creatures. Without them, the world would be unbalanced. 


By embracing this knowledge, we can help create a more sustainable and healthy planet for ourselves and future generations. The next time you encounter a bug, be brave and try to see them in a new light. Together, we can work towards a world where all beings are respected and valued, even insects.


*Most insects pose no threat.

*Fear can be overcome.

*Saving a life makes you feel good.


walking stick insect
insects are really cool

TEACHING CHILDREN TO RESPECT INSECTS


Teaching children a deep-rooted respect for all living things is one of the most important lessons we can communicate. The world needs more compassionate and empathetic people. As the saying goes, "Children are our future". Therefore, we must start by teaching them empathy and kindness towards all living things, including insects. Unfortunately, insects are often treated as insignificant or thought to be repulsive by many people. It's one thing to be a humanitarian, but another to be both a humanitarian and an animalitarian. This concept is godlike, where a fully developed empathic human sees all life with purpose, kindness, and respect. Imagine what kind of world we could live in if all practiced this simple concept.


toddler and juvenile preying mantis
teach kindness to all living things

Unfortunately, I have experienced instances of cruelty and violence towards both animals and insects, even among children. I recall a distressing time when I witnessed boys in my elementary school take great pleasure in catching flies at the window sill and then rip their wings off.  My young age and small stature did not get in the way of trying to stop them.  However, this disturbing behavior can be a sign of conduct disorders, and statistics show that kids who harm animals will only get worse if untreated. This behavior should never be accepted or ignored.


As I've grown older, I have continued to notice a lack of respect for insects, evidenced by a recent conversation I overheard between a mother and her young daughter. Their conversation went like this:

Kid: Look, mom.

Mom: It's a bug.

Kid: I kill them.

Mom: I know you do.

Kid: I smash them with my feet.

Mom: Yes, you do.

I admit, I whipped my head around (part in disgust and part for dramatic effect) to see who this self-proclaimed bug killer was.

Overhearing this conversation left me feeling dismayed. It is tragic for a young child to believe it is acceptable to take a life that is not hers to take (even a bug's life) and with such pride and delight. Some may argue that she is just a kid, but I disagree. Children who can disregard a life comfortably and without remorse were taught not to respect, empathize, or find value in all life. Children aren't born cruel and violent; it's taught.

Therefore, parents, caregivers, and educators must instill in children a sense of empathy, compassion, and respect for all living beings. Not only will this create a more peaceful and harmonious society, but it will also help to create a future generation that values all life and understands the importance of treating all beings with kindness and compassion.


boy holding grasshopper
be gentle with insects

Encourage children to embrace nature and a healthy respect for it. Whether it's spending time in a garden, forest, beach, or backyard, the great outdoors is full of wonders waiting for exploration. By teaching children how to observe and identify insects, they can learn to appreciate their fascinating qualities and value in the ecosystem. Doing so can help alleviate any fears and misconceptions they may have about insects. 


By promoting a positive attitude towards insects, we can help prevent acts of cruelty towards them and other animals. Furthermore, it can help children develop a deep sense of empathy and respect for other living creatures, a valuable lesson that will serve them well throughout their lives.


*Teach kindness to all living things.

*Promote a healthy attitude toward insects.

*Encourage children to embrace nature.


honey bee pollinating daisy
we need bees

CONCLUSION


Insects are undoubtedly a vital part of our wondrous working planet, far more important than we give them credit for. They pollinate over 80% of the world's flowering plants, including many of the crops we rely on for food. By breaking down organic matter, they contribute to the nutrient cycle, promoting healthy soil. They also help control other insect populations, which reduces the need for harmful pesticides.


Despite their importance, 40% of insect species are currently in decline, with a third now endangered. These statistics are concerning and should alarm everyone. Many people fear insects, leading to the use of dangerous pesticides or cruelty towards them. However, fear of insects is common. One can conquer this fear with patience, understanding, and kindness. Or seek professional help for the more severe phobia. The use of pesticides is having disastrous effects on our environment. To maintain a healthy ecosystem, we must protect insect populations and work towards creating a world where all living creatures can thrive.


It is essential to educate children about the purpose insects serve in our ecosystem and treat them with gentleness and respect. By protecting all species and promoting a positive attitude towards them, we can maintain a healthy ecosystem and prevent harm to all living beings.


Remember, insects are not just pesky creatures but a vital part of our planet. It's time to recognize their value and appreciate their role in maintaining a healthy environment. Let's work together to create a world where all creatures, including insects, are appreciated, respected, and protected.




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adjective

   concerned with or seeking to promote animal welfare and happiness: pertaining to

   saving animal lives and the alleviation of their pain and suffering: groups sending

   animalitarian aid | an animalitarian organization | an animalitarian crisis.  

                            

noun

   a person who seeks to promote animal welfare and social reform; a philanthropist. 

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