Pests. Creepy crawlers. Bugs. Insects.They dominate global animal biodiversity in terms of biomass, species numbers and total population numbers, outweighing humanity by 17 times. They are the most varied and abundant animals. They are crucial to ecosystems, providing services such as pollinating flowers, decomposing dead organisms and waste, and forming crucial links in food webs.
And they are in trouble.
According to an article in The Guardian, “Plummeting insect numbers threaten collapse of nature,” more than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles.
If you remember the plot of “Bee Movie,” we’re not talking about a world simply without buzzing, stinging, biting nuisances. Insect declines lead to declines in insect-eating birds and in animal-pollinated plants. The many birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish that eat insects will simply starve to death.
The reason, say experts, of course, is us. Our food industry is dominated by intensive agriculture, particularly the heavy use of pesticides, as well as our need to live in urban environments, and of course climate change.
As families, what we can do about this impending crises? What can you and your child do about the massive decline of insects?
We can start by fostering a love (or at least an interest) in the fascinating and BIG world of insects. Because we know that once a child is interested, the next step is connection, and then comes stewardship and commitment to the natural world.
Here are some fascinating facts to help your child become an entomophile, aka insect lover.
Insects are the largest and most diverse group of organisms on Earth.
There are nearly 1 million species of insects. Though some scientists believe the actual number may exceed 20 million!
Insects make up about 75% of all described animal species.
Insect bodies have three parts, the thorax, abdomen and head.
Insects have two antennae.
Insects have three pairs of legs.
Some insects, such as gerridae (water striders), are able to walk on the surface of water.
Bees, termites and ants live in well organized social colonies.
Insects are found on land, in water and in air in nearly all habitats and all continents including Antarctica.
Only male crickets chirp.
Insects are herbivores (plant-eating), scavengers, decomposers, predators that feed on other insects and other arthropods and even some vertebrates as well as parasites
Insects are cold-blooded.
Silkworms are used as the primary producer of silk.
Most insects hatch from eggs.
Some cicadas can make sounds nearly 120 decibels loud.
Female mosquitoes drink blood in order to obtain nutrients needed to produce eggs.
Spiders are not insects.
Bees are found on every continent except Antarctica.
Ants leave trails and communicate with each other using pheromones as chemical signals.
Now that your child is (hopefully) intrigued with insects, it’s time to get out there and explore! Follow our activity for a Backyard Bug Hunt so your child can learn more about bugs in their backyard or neighborhood. You can also have your child create artwork focusing on an insect they find fascinating. Insects are gorgeous creatures to photograph or depict in artwork. Plant a pollinator garden or build a pond that encourages more insects in your backyard. Or build a bug house to encourage more helpful insects to stick around!