Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Need For Bugs

Insects perform countless functions that improve our environment and our lives in ways that researchers are only beginning to understand.

PICTURE THIS: You’re sitting around, having a tailgate party before the big game, when yellow jackets swarm around the apple cider. Or: You’re up on a ladder, washing the storm windows, and you find a big wasps’ nest under the eaves. How do you feel? Bugged?

Most of us react to insects with annoyance or fear—and the instinct to swat—but according to a couple of enterprising entomologists, deep appreciation would be a more appropriate response.

Cornell University’s John Losey and Mace Vaughan of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation recently sat down at their computers, drew up a really big spreadsheet and toted up the cash value of some ecological services that native insects provide right here in the United States.

By ecological services, these scientists mean real work, done for free, by the six-legged creatures we ordinarily feel compelled to swat—work such as pollinating crops (native bees do $3 billion worth of pollination that would otherwise be assigned to hired honeybees) and pest control (when native insects chow down on alien invaders, farmers avoid $4.5 billion in crop losses). Read the entire article.

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