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Why Insects Are Necessary for Survival

Paisley Hansen Dec 10, 2019
Insects are the most common animals on Earth, with more than 1.5 million named species. Though people often tend to think of them as pests, insects are vital to the survival of most living things on the planet. What makes insects so important to survival?

The Food Chain

Insects are at the bottom of the food chain for many small birds, frogs, reptiles and other amphibians. Without this food source, many of these animals would starve to death, which would have a ripple effect through the ecosystem.
Predators that eat insect-eating animals would also likely die. Additionally, many other species of animals that rely entirely or partially on insects for food would likely disappear, including anteaters, armadillos, some species of bats, geckos and the common toad.

Agricultural Production

Humans would also likely starve if insects were to disappear. 75% of all flowering plants, including many food crops, rely on insects, primarily bees, moths and flies, for pollination. While some insects consume crops, others help keep weeds and pests in check.
With many harmful insects becoming resistant to common pesticides and organic farming methods becoming more common, insects that kill pests have become popular as a means of biological control. Burrowing insects, such as dung beetles, help remove the feces of grazing animals from pasture and aerate soil.

Economic Value

Humans have long cultivated bees for their honey, wax and other products. Additionally, shellac, silk, and dyes derived from insects have had a major economic impact. Insects also contribute economically through the work they do.
It has been estimated that insects contribute $57 billion worth of work to the economy, with an additional half-billion dollars coming in the form of pest control. Honeybees are estimated to pollinate approximately $15 billion worth of crops annually in the United States alone.

Decomposition

Dead leaves, trash, decomposing bodies and other refuse would take much longer to decompose if there were no insects feeding on them. Bacteria is primarily responsible for decomposition, but bacteria would have a much harder time breaking materials down without the assistance of insects.
Without this decay, not only would the world be full of dead plants, animals and feces, but the soil would not be replenished with the vital nutrients that are produced by decaying plant matter. Additionally, insects, whose bodies are largely composed of nitrogen, return this vital nutrient to the soil when their own bodies decay.

Medicine

Insects have many medicinal uses, both in traditional and alternative medicine. Insect cells have been used as a replacement for chicken eggs in the cultivation of some flu vaccines.
Maggot therapy is used to help prevent infection and speed healing by cleaning out necrotic tissue in some types of wounds. Apitherapy, which is the medical use of bee venom, is believed to have the potential for treating rheumatoid arthritis, gout, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis.
Some bee products have been found to have antimicrobial properties that could be useful in killing anti-biotic resistant bacteria, pancreatic cancer cells and certain types of infectious microbes.
The venom of bees, wasps, spiders and other venomous insects has been the subject of much research for its potential medicinal properties and is frequently used in some forms of eastern medicine.
Research on the salvia of blood-feeding insects, such as ticks and mosquitoes has shown promise as a potential blocker of tumor growth. Spider silk, which has long been used in eastern medicine, may have use for ligament regeneration and fine sutures.
It is difficult to know how life on Earth may have evolved without the existence of insects, but it is certain that if the billions of insects who currently populate the planet were to disappear the effects on nearly all living creatures would be devastating.
While some insects can be destructive and damaging to human life, maintaining the delicate balance and vital role insects play in the global ecosystem is important for survival.