Most of us have had unpleasant experiences with insects at one time or another. It may be from the sting of an insect or a great mess caused by a group of insects. You may have been spooked by an insect that landed on your plate or a bug that you inhaled while riding your bike. Before you wish there were no insects, let me remind you that we owe them a great debt. Of course insect bites are not enjoyable and a plague of locusts can ruin a crop, but do not forget all the good things insects do for us to protect our food and save us money.

John Losey of Cornell University and Mace Vaughan of Xerces Society of Invertebrate Conservation say that insects contribute $57 billion in ecological services in the USA each year. As one example, insects pollinate plants making it possible for our crops to grow. According to Losey and Vaughan, in 2005, native insects pollinated plants that would have cost farmers $3 billion to hire honeybees to do. Also in 2005, $4.5 billion in crop losses were avoided by native insects that ate foreign invaders and thereby saved crops while avoiding the use of pesticides. Insects process our waste and the waste of our animals. Bovine waste alone creates a major problem. Various dung beetles do the processing of the waste products of cattle, and in 2005, American ranchers saved $380 million in waste disposal costs thanks to those insects.

Insects also play a major part in America’s outdoor recreation industry. In 2005, $50 billion was spent on various recreational activities which depend on insects, including bird watching, fishing, and hunting.

The point of all this is that bugs are worth a lot of money to us. It has been said that “God doesn’t make any junk.” Insects are not “junk.” They are incredibly important and useful to man. They have been designed by God to do important things, and the more we learn of what they do, the more we realize how valuable they are.

Source: National Wildlife magazine, October/November 2006, page 37.

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