INFORMATION SHEET 12
Insects Are Beneficial
As humans, we might think that a world without insects would be a better place. But in reality,
of over a million described species of insects less than one percent are considered to be serious
pests. The vast majority of species are either totally harmless, or are beneficial. Below is a
partial list of the ways insects may be important.
FOOD FOR HUMANS AND WILDLIFE
- Insect pollinators are responsible for one third of the food in grocery stores.
- Honey bees produce honey.
- Insects are used as food by many human cultures.
- Birds, toads, fish, and many other species of wildlife depend on insects for food.
- Silk comes from the silkworm caterpillar.
- Linen and cotton are from crops pollinated by insects.
- Blow fly larvae were used to clean wounds prior to modern antibiotics, and sometimes still are.
- Some ants and beetles are enticed to bite across wounds and serve as primitive sutures.
- Insects are commonly used as experimental subjects, for example the fruit fly has been invaluable to the study of genetics.
AGRICULTURE AND LANDSCAPES
- Some insects are important because they feed on insect pests or weeds. Forexample, the puncturevine weevil is used to control the noxious weed called puncturevine. Lady beetles eat the plant pests known as aphids.
- Insect pollination assists many crops to set seeds to be planted next year.
RECYCLING AND SOIL IMPROVEMENT
- Soil inhabiting insects such as ants improve soil texture and aeration.
- Many insects feed on dead plant or animal matter and speed up decomposition and nutrient cycling.
- Butterflies and other insects are beautiful!