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National Insect Week 2022

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:

  1. Six legs.
  2. Three body sections (head, thorax and abdomen)
  3. Pair of antennae.
  4. Compound eyes.
  5. Most have wings.
  6. 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

International Day of Women and Girls in Science Friday 11th of February 2022

At Edinburgh Napier University, we want to celebrate all women and girls in science, from the past to the present day. Emerging from the shadows of history, women work together to find new inventions to improve the next generations. 

 

 

Microscope

Microscope

 

 

Here are some amazing Women Pioneers in Science that have and are helping to create a better future: 

 

  • Janaki Ammal was India’s first female plant scientist and Botanist. Ammal studied hybrid species and advocated for the biodiversity of India.  
  • Dorothy Lavinia Brown was the first African American female surgeon. She practiced in the South-eastern U.S. during the 1900s. 
  • Lauren Esposito is an arachnologist; you might be thinking what this means, and it involves a lot of legs… (a scientist who studies spiders and related animals such as scorpions)! But she is the only woman expert on scorpions in the world, and the co-founder of 500 Queer Scientists to boost awareness and recognition of LGBTQ+ people working in the STEM industry.  

 

Did you know that it is also estimated that only 25% of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) are women? This shows that girls are often stereotyped from an early age in the classroom, as boys are more likely to pursue these subjects such as Chemistry, Physics, Engineering, and Computing. The sector needs to be more diverse, and Equate Scotland works with women to be more inclusive: 

https://equatescotland.org.uk/ 

 

Laboratory technician

Laboratory technician

 

 

At Napier, there are Scholarships in partnership with the British Council available for women from Southeast Asia that support their studies for health and life sciences.  

You can find more information in the links below: 

British Council Women in STEM (napier.ac.uk) 

https://www.britishcouncil.org/study-work-abroad/in-uk/scholarship-women-stem  

 

The library also has books available on Women and Girls in Science:

https://napier.primo.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/44NAP_INST/n96pef/alma99560200102111

https://napier.primo.exlibrisgroup.com/permalink/44NAP_INST/n96pef/alma9923597423802111

 

Throughout the pandemic, women have been working on the front lines of covid-19 as scientists, health workers, and more. It is important to always recognise and value Women’s and girls’ contributions in STEM and how they are working to create a better life for us all.  

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