Some bugs give others a bad name. It may be our instinct to avoid insects, but not all of them are plotting world domination. In fact, some are quite helpful to humans and the environment. Check out which insects are good allies to have around.
Insects help plants pollinate by carrying pollen from one plant to the next. Without the mixing of pollen, plants wouldn’t be able to reproduce. This means we’d miss out on flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Below are a few insects we may want to thank the next time we see them.
Most bees are involved in the pollination of flowers. They use the nectar from plants as a source of food for their offspring. Honeybees also collect nectar and take it home to produce honey. Some bees have a scopa located on their hind legs or abdomen, which is covered in thick, specialized hair called setae. Honeybees and bumblebees lack this structure but have a similar one called a corbicula. It is a small orange or yellow concave region that is surrounded by hair. These specialized parts allow pollen to be safely transported home.
Butterflies also do their fair share to help with pollination. As butterflies walk around on flowers with their long, thin legs, they gather pollen. They aren’t able to collect as much pollen as bees, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be thanked for their help. Butterflies move from flower to flower more quickly than bees. Though they don’t collect the same amount of pollen, they travel to more flowers. This makes up for the lower levels of pollen.
This may be the surprise of the bunch, but some beetles do help pollinate. Beetles with hairy bodies are able to carry pollen with them as they travel from plant to plant. A few of the beetles choose to eat pollen and nectar. However, some actually eat the flower or hideout until other bugs arrive. Beetles are drawn to larger flowers that have a musty, fruity or spicy scent.
These bugs are the hunters of the group. Predators feed on other bugs, which can be beneficial for us. We really enjoy the vegetables produced on farms and in gardens and so do many bugs. Thankfully, there are predator bugs that feed on insects that are harmful to crops. Check out which bugs save our favorite veggie dishes.
These polka-dotted bugs are one of our best allies against harmful insects. Ladybugs eat aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, and whiteflies. They have a big appetite, consuming thousands of aphids in their lifetime. They also learn to hunt at a young age. Ladybugs will lay their eggs among aphids. Immediately after hatching, they will begin eating them.
Don’t let their delicate, lacey wings deceive you. Green lacewings are great to have on our side. Though they enjoy pollen and nectar, green lacewings also eat insects. Like ladybugs, green lacewings lay their eggs near aphids so they have a food source after hatching. Adult lacewings tend to eat soft-bodied insects including aphids and mites as well.
You don’t have to run scared every time you see a spider. The majority of spiders are not harmful to humans and they help keep pests under control. Like the other predators on this list, spiders eat bugs that can damage crops. However, they also eat bugs that give us a fit like wasps, mosquitos and flies. Some bugs can carry diseases that will harm or kill plants. Spiders help us out by eating these bugs before this happens.
Decomposer and Recyclers
We know there are benefits to recycling and bugs understand this too. Decomposers and recyclers help to keep the environment clean. They consume decaying matter, which means there’s space for new plants to grow.
Earthworms have a great impact on our environment. They eat dead leaves, rotting plants and other decaying matter. Not only do they clear up space, they also improve soil conditions. Their castings enrich the soil acting as a natural fertilizer. Earthworms also aerate dirt through their burrowed tunnels. These tunnels make it easier for water to reach the roots of the plants as well.
Beetles aren’t just pollinators, they are also great recyclers. Beetles feed on a variety of decaying matter including plants and animals. Keeping things clean isn’t their only skill. Some beetles, like the rhinoceros beetle, can make gardening easier. Compost bins are sometimes used to create mulch for gardens. Rhinoceros beetles feed on the compost allowing it to break down faster. This means that gardeners don’t have to wait as long to use their mulch.
This one was definitely unexpected. We all know that termites love wood and unfortunately, they sometimes find our homes appetizing. However, their love for wood does help the environment. When termites eat dead trees and roots, they help it to decompose quickly. If they didn’t consume these pieces of wood, there would be no room for new plant growth.
Bugs tend to get a bad rap. Though some live up to their names, there are quite a few who are actually helpful. It’s important to recognize the beneficial bugs from the pesky ones. When they aren’t invading your home, they have a great impact on the environment. If you see one of them on your next walk, it may be nice to thank them for their hard work.