National Insect Week 2022
Love them or loathe them, insects are an important part of the earth’s ecosystem. Furthermore, they are a vital source of food for birds, fish and animals. In addition, they pollinate crops and plants and break down plant and animal matter. Over one million species of insects have been discovered and described, but it is estimated that there may be as many as 10 million species on earth. Scientists estimate that insects make up to 90% of all species of animals on the planet and more than half of all living things.
All insects have:
- Six legs.
- Three body sections (head, thorax and abdomen)
- Pair of antennae.
- Compound eyes.
- Most have wings.
- Three or four stage life cycle (egg, larva or nymphs, pupa and adult)
Insects can be found in every habitat on earth from hot deserts to snow-covered mountains, some such as termites and ants live in large colonies. Others, like the praying mantis and some bees and wasps, are solitary only coming together to mate.
Insects in trouble
It has been well documented in recent years that insects are under pressure due to loss of habitat, climate change and chemicals used in farming. It is estimated that every minute an area of rainforest the size of a football pitch is being cleared, displacing the insects that occupied it. In addition, Insects are also being killed by pesticides and herbicides designed to increase crop yields.
To reduce the impact scientists are trying to develop disease-resistant crops. This will lessen the need for harmful chemicals. Also farmers are being encouraged to develop wildlife strips to try to boost insect numbers.
Honey bees are also under threat from the varoa mite . It attaches to the body of the bee and sucks out fat bodies and also feeds on the larvae in bee hives. Moreover, these mites are a vector for at least five different debilitating bee viruses contributing to the current higher levels of bee losses worldwide.
How can you help this National Insect Week 2022?
You may think that there’s little you can do to help the insects’ plight, but there are some simple and cheap things you can try at home. Should you have a garden, you can leave a wild area where you don’t cut the grass, let weeds and nettles flourish and leave tree branches where they fall. This provides shelter and dedicated space for insects to thrive. Also, you can try planting flowers and shrubs which are good for insects in your flower beds or planters.
Don’t have a garden? You could plant up a window box with bee-friendly flowers such as cornflowers, cosmos and pot marigolds. These can be bought for a relatively small price.
Bug hotels are a fantastic way to provide shelter and a breeding spot for insects. They can be purchased at garden centres and online, but you may like to try making your own. There are several tutorials on YouTube and it’s a great way of recycling old materials and garden waste which you might have lying around.
Alternatively, you could take part in citizen science projects to help scientists better understand how insects are coping and if their populations are in decline or expanding.
Examples of citizen science projects are:
Counting insect splats- https://cdn.buglife.org.uk/2022/05/Bugs-Matter-2021-National-Report-Summary.pdf
Tell us about your bee hotel- https://saviourbees.co.uk/citizenscience/
Garden butterfly survey- https://gardenbutterflysurvey.org/
UK ladybird survey-https://www.coleoptera.org.uk/coccinellidae/home
A future food source?
In some countries, insects are seen as delicious snacks. Walk around a market in many parts of Asia and you will almost certainly come across fried grasshoppers and mealworms on the menu. This concept seems very alien to us in Scotland, but some scientists believe that there is a need for us to start using insects as a food source. The ever-increasing global population and events such as wars put pressure on food commodities. This can cause shortages, which if they were long-term, could mean that we must consider some more unusual sources to feed the world’s population.
Edinburgh Napier has lots of books and articles about insects available at Sighthill campus library and online. Use Library Search to find them.
By Vivienne Hamilton
Want to read some more nature-inspired articles? Why not read Vivienne’s post in Ospreys.
Photo by Elegance Nairobi on Unsplash