The Mighty Bugs
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.
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.
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
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.