No, this is not a treatise on lovebugs. It is an admonishment to: Love bugs (insects)!
If you are one of those people who are aghast at this request – please keep reading.
Just the facts, Ma’am:
Only 1% of insect species are harmful to humans and the plants that we grow. The rest are beneficial (or at least harmless). Most bugs are out there, behind the scenes and unappreciated, working hard to keep our world smoothly buzzing along.
Insects perform five essential functions without which we would be in big trouble:
- As pollinators, they are necessary for the production of 30% of the food we eat. Bees are especially important for agriculture, but they and other pollinators (such as butterflies, beetles, and mosquitoes) are also needed to maintain natural populations of wild plants.
- Some insects are producers all by themselves. The honey bee makes honey, of course, as well as wax. Caterpillars spin silk. Scale insects produce an organic, non-toxic red dye.
- As a high protein meal for birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and small mammals, bugs are the foundation of the food chain. A fly is snapped up by a lizard which is swallowed by a black racer which is captured by a resplendent red-shouldered hawk.
- Insects are biodegraders who transform waste and debris into fertile soil. They are the original recyclers!
- Finally, many bugs are exterminators who destroy their harmful cousins. For example, lady bugs consume aphids; lacewings relish mealy bugs; and spiders devour house flies.
Bugs! What’s not to love?
And bugs need our love now more than ever because their populations are declining. As a gardener or homeowner you can support the good bugs of this world by:
- Limiting your use of pesticides, and
- Adding diversity to your landscape.
Our lives depend on these pollinating, producing, nourishing, biodegrading exterminators, so please: Love bugs!
This article was contributed by Leslie Nixon, a Master Gardener Trainee in Volusia County