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The Mighty Bugs

Updated on October 9, 2012

Linnaeus' Enigma

Since basically, everyone living in Florida, outside of those smack dab on the beach, are all walking on the skeletons of swampland -- which means many things, but most of all -- its all about how we are trespassing on the homeland of the mighty insect. Often it seems, if we aren't swatting at mosquitoes, we are shooing flies, or some other pesky insect.

Like it or not, in my daily life, at least once a day, I'm thinking about insects. Sometimes it's the June bugs that have been invading and dying in the house to clean up. Other times, both outside and inside, we battle fire ant invasions.

Even worse, I've seen more spiders in this one beautiful and barely a year old house, than I've seen in my lifetime. Strange and unusual ones that send me running to identify them and see if they are poisonous, such as the pretty turquoise blue and black ones that were meandering across our italian tiled floors just yesterday.

I often think about a comical movie, titled, Joe's Apartment -- that I saw a few years ago in Hong Kong. If you've ever encountered a Florida Palmetto bug, which is an American cockroach of the giant size, you'll understand why. Don't have them in my house, but you can't live in Florida without encountering them even in public places like parking lots. It's the ones that fly, like the Asian cockroaches, and the mosquitoes that bug me the most.

Linnaeus, the great Swedish naturalist, once made a statement which must made people wonder at the time, and think he was quite insane, when he said:

"Three flies consume the carcass of a horse as quickly as a lion could dispose of it."

Well, it takes maybe not three flies, but perhaps the life of one fly to help us find a solution to this famous old quoted enigma of Carlous Linnaeus.

A fly begins to lay eggs in the middle of April. Its eggs number, as a rule, about one hundred and twenty. These hatch in two weeks, and ten days later, the females of the new generation lay theireggs in turn. Generation succeeds generation throughout the summer and on into September, the biggest month of the fly season.

Now, if all the descendants of the April fly live and produce eggs, the progeny of that first fly, after a lapse of the five warm months of the year, number the unthinkable total of about five thousand six hundred million insects. That is the meaning told in numbers of the saying of the immortal Linnaeus, which must have often perplexed other naturalists of his day and for generations beyond.

Early Baseball advertisement for a bug spray Advert says: Use Getz cockroach and bed bug exterminators, sold by all druggists
Early Baseball advertisement for a bug spray Advert says: Use Getz cockroach and bed bug exterminators, sold by all druggists | Source

Thinking In Vast Numbers

There was and always will be more of them than there are of us. There are approximately nine hundred thousand kinds of species of insects, and there are probably still about twenty percent more, which still remain to be discovered, named, and described. There powers of multiplication have no parallel in the animal world.

In the insect world the death rate is not so high, perhaps, there is greater seclusion and safety than in the open waters, and the result is that insects number incredibly more than all other forms of life added together.

When you think about it, most of them are tiny things. It takes over five thousand big honeybees to make a pound of honey -- yet, if we could mass all the great and small animals, bird, and reptiles together in one huge scale, then put into the opposite scale the insects that people the earth -- the tiny things would be so colossal in tota,l that they would far outweigh all of the rest of earth's inhabitants. This is true even though the elephants, rhinos, hippos, oxen, cattle, horses, and whales join us on the other side.

Their enormous numbers are due in part to the fact that they reach full growth with extreme rapidity and become parents almost at once. There is also, of course, their great fertility to be considered. A queen bee lays as many as eighty thousand eggs. While similarly the queen of a white ant, or termite, colony produces her eggs, thousands and thousands of them, at a rate of one a second.

Naturally, these great numbers affect the fortunes of the human family. They are a mingled bane and blessing. They are carriers and distributors of terrible diseases, agonizing and sometimes fatal to man and beast. They can destroy our forests, and make a desert where a fruitful land once was. They can eat up our vegetation and starve our cattle. They have, from the dawn of human enlightenment, been the agents which have defied and stricken us when we have sought to thrust out the bounds of civilization in tropical and subtropical lands.

A new way to pay the national-debt by artist: James Gillray
A new way to pay the national-debt by artist: James Gillray | Source

Our Great Debt

On the other hand, we have to humbly confess to ourselves that we have a unending debt to insects. Additionally, mankind can't really say that we have captured and improved some of the wild species here on earth's lives. We can fool ourselves and believe that, but for the most part we've led to their decline.

Yet, many insects, have done what we cannot do naturally or otherwise. They have gone to flowers with their scents and sweets and fertilized them and helping the seeds out for new generations to develop. The insects are the beasts of burden which convey the vital pollen from one flower to another. To charm the senses of insects, the flowers distill their nectar and breathe on the air their sweetest odors, and light the way for each insect to their treasure house with all their colors.

Not all insect visitors are welcome. Some are robbers who take without giving in return. Where the arrangement between insect and flower, is of ancient standing, the modifications of the plant and of the insect are such as to defy imagination. The plant has its beautiful traps and adaptations, some of them noble little examples of engineering, and even some of them grimy comic snares. Others are, of course, insect eating plants, treacherous paths to miserable deaths.

Remote as their lives seem from ours, all insects have a very intimate assocation and application to all of earth, for good and for ill, with human existence and prosperity.

A Few Beneficial Insects

  • Beetles-- Many species of beetles are vital to control of harmful caterpillars, cut worms, and slugs
  • Earthworm -- Absolutely essential for aerating the soil and enriching the soil
  • Fly Parasites Predators -- Keep the fly population in check
  • Honeybee -= Without them we would lose about three hundred important crops that we depend upon for food sources, such as the apple and almonds.
  • Green Lacewings-- Necessary for control of aphids and mites
  • Ladybugs -- Need for control of aphids, mealy bugs, and mites
  • Nematodes-- Beneficial nematodes kill grubs and Japanese Beetles
  • Praying Mantis -- Necessary for controlling aphids
  • Spiders -- Some of this species group eat a large portion of undesirable bugs
  • Trichogramma Wasps -- Necessary for control of aphids, caterpillar eggs, corn earwigs, mites, and moth larvae.

A Few Harmful Insects

  • Aphid -- Plant eating insect
  • Boll Weevil -- Serious cotton destroying insect
  • Brown Recluse Spider -- Can cause serious illness and even death
  • Cinch Bug -- Destoys lawns
  • Cockroaches -- Spread diseases of all sorts
  • Cut Worm -- Plant eating insect
  • Fleas -- Spreads disease and even death (black plague) in humans and other animals
  • Locust -- Plant eating insect on a large scale because of swarming
  • Mealy Bug -- Suck the life out of plants
  • Mosquito -- Spreads disease and even death (malaria, West Nile virus, dengue fever, yellow fever)
  • Termites -- Social insects that feed primarily on dead material and cause much damage to homes and other sturctures
  • Thrip -- Plant eating and sucking insect
  • Ticks -- Spreads disease
  • White Grub -- Lawn destroying insect

Manu National Park Insects

Nature's Scavengers

There are so many of them that we have reason to fear, and we may wonder why they exist. Their role is plain. They are scavengers, they are harvesters, they are the agents down whose throats is meant to disappear excess of vegetation in the world. There are a staggering estimated ten quintillion alive at this very moment (that's 10,000,000,000,000,000,000) bugs!

Without them, the earth would become rank with overcrowding in every phase of the botanical kingdom. We have appeared on their horizon, on their preserves, to share, or else to claim entirely for our own use, the things they desire.

One thing that the animal world never provided for was the civilization of man and his processes in taming the wilds. He and it have come; the older inhabitants -- the insects -- are still in possession where we have pioneered and settled down. They continue as they began, so their war with mankind is inevitable.

It is no secret that -- most of the larger forms of animal life tend to disappear with the presence of man, unless he preserves them for his own purpose, like for example -- cattle. In the wild, however, the buffalo is basically gone, the elephant has become scarce, and so many other animals and speicies have been lost, just in our own lifetimes. Most of the fur-bearing animals are growing rare. Many birds have disappeared entirely, while others are few in number compared with the past.

This is not true of insects. They are gaining on mankind, and perhaps some day they will get the upper hand. It is estimated that they now eat every year between one fifth and one fourth of all crops. We have destroyed the birds, their worst enemies, and we plant every year millions of acres of just the very foods they like.

Swarming -- What We Could Learn From Insects

Every one and every creature on this planet has their rol,e and insects are so necessary to our ecosystem. They:

  • Aerate the soil
  • Control insects
  • Decompose dead matter
  • Fertilize the soil
  • Pollinate blossoms
  • Provide aeration tunnels for water

There is much to be learned from the study of them. This is especially true when it comes to the study of eusocial insects and their ability to swarm for the good of the species. One interesting series of experiments open to the public is going on at the Science Cafe in Cleveland, Ohio. The video below gives you a peek into this fascinating idea.

Swarming At Ingenuity

I Will Survive (The Cockroach Song)


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    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      9 years ago from United States

      Thanks James A Watkins! I'm planning a few hubs on birds over the summer. Only bug I'd add to your list is fire ants, I hate the little buggers.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 

      9 years ago from Chicago

      This Hub is fantastic!  Very informative and insightful.  I enjoyed it very much.  Since I also live in Florida I am very familiar with bugs.  I used to hate and fear a lot of them.  As I have gotten older, I have come to accept them as part of my world and I don't kill them anymore unless it is a roach, flea, spider, fly or mosquito. 

      I am curious; how have we killed the birds?

    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      9 years ago from United States

      Thanks Aya! I'll be pondering on that. I think those we share the planet with also feel the same way. I'm planning on living to 100 and have a hard time sometimes others of our kind not wanting to live.

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 

      9 years ago from The Ozarks

      Jerilee, here is a message from Bow: "Every human doesn't want to die."

      He spelled it out twice today. I asked him: "Why do you keep saying that?" Finally he spelled: "Tell Jerilee."

    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      9 years ago from United States

      Thanks Aya! The lack of concern for the plight of each individual is exactly why I think we aren't capable of prospering collectively? I don't know but found the swarming experiment fascinating.

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 

      9 years ago from The Ozarks

      Jerilee, I enjoyed reading this hub, not only for the content, but also for your use of language and imagery. It is a pleasure to read.

      As for the insects, it's their very lack of concern for the plight of each individual that allows them to prosper collectively.

    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      9 years ago from United States

      Thnaks Tatjana-Mihaela! You want to watch out for any standing water mostly. I wish I had immunity to the bites, they are an ordeal for me and my perfume of choice ends up having Deet in it. Not something I'm happy about.

      Thanks Anthony James Barnett! Pretty much in the same boat when it comes to bugs.

      Thanks Brian S! Move to where they aren't. LOL

      Thanks shamelabboush! It's a lot of bugs.

    • shamelabboush profile image


      9 years ago

      Those are astronomical numbers out there as if you're talking about outer space!!! This is so weird. But at the end, they are useful for our survival bcz they complete the life cycle. I'm very bewildered of those fatcs! Thanks dear.

    • BrianS profile image

      Brian Stephens 

      9 years ago from Castelnaudary, France

      I was very interested to see if you had a remedy for stopping the pesky creatures landing on your head and the back of your neck when you are trying to concentrate on the computer? Great information though.

    • profile image

      Anthony James Barnett - author 

      9 years ago

      Another great Hub, Jerilee. Living on the Costa Blanca in Spain, I empathize with your predicament.

      Insects are the bane of my life.

    • Tatjana-Mihaela profile image


      9 years ago from Zadar, CROATIA

      Heh, thanks to the care of my landlord who waters the grass in the garden two times per day, we have mosquitos. I wish to water the landlord...with plenty of cold water because he does not see connection between watering the grass and mosquitos.

      Good thing is that my boyfriend and me developed immunity on mosquitos does not itch any more.

      This is so excellent article you wrote. You pointed on so many positive roles which insect have in the life-chain....

      It was pleasure to read this Hub.

    • Jerilee Wei profile imageAUTHOR

      Jerilee Wei 

      9 years ago from United States

      Thanks goldentoad! I could have won the cucaracha dance contest when I was a young bride living in an apartment complex infested with them.

      Thanks meishomecorner!

      Thanks Nancy's Niche! Lately it's the ants that really get to me.

      Thanks jill of alltrades! Joe's Apartment wasn't something anyone is ever likely to forget.

    • jill of alltrades profile image

      jill of alltrades 

      9 years ago from Philippines

      Wow! You really know your insects very well. I also have encountered almost all the insects and other bugs you mentioned since I live in the tropics. However, I can never write a piece about them like this...really well written hub.

      I also saw Joe's Apartment. Yikes! Ugh!

    • profile image

      Nancy's Niche 

      9 years ago

      Very informative hub---thanks. Ant’s and cockroaches bug the heck out of me (no pun intended)…The latter I am not bothered by thank goodness but those pesky ants drive me crazy…

    • melshomecorner profile image

      Melinda Winner 

      9 years ago from Mississippi

      so much info good to know thanks

    • goldentoad profile image


      9 years ago from Free and running....

      I was doin the cucaracha dance last night when I turned on the kitchen light. I got some good moves.


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