Happy Bug Week!
Did you know that each year the University of Florida dedicates an entire week to recognize and celebrate bugs?! This week is known as Bug Week and takes place March 30th through April 6th. The purpose of Bug Week is to educate the community on the importance of insects and to promote awareness of entomology – the scientific study of insects and their closely related relatives.
First thing’s first, what exactly is an insect? Insects are small animals with six legs and a hard outer shell called an exoskeleton. Insects have three main body parts, which are the head, thorax and abdomen. Most insects have a pair of antennae and two pairs of wings. Many of the creatures you see outdoors (and in some cases indoors) are insects – ants, beetles, butterflies, dragonflies, moths, and cockroaches. Other creatures like spiders, mites, centipedes and rolly-pollies are not actually insects but are related.
When most people think of insects they think of the bad ones but not all insects are bad! Insects are labeled as bad or ‘pests’ when they start causing harm to people (ex: mosquitos) or the things we care about such as plants (ex: aphids), animals (ex: fleas) and buildings (ex: termites). But most insects are GOOD! In fact, of the millions of insect species found throughout the world, less than 2% are actually pests.
Some ways insects are considered beneficial:
Prey on pest insects. Many species of insects eat pest insects! Lady beetles (ladybugs) and lacewings eat pest insects like aphids, mealybugs and whiteflies. They help keep the environment in balance.
Parasitize pest insects. Some species of good insects live in or on pest insects. For example, parasitoid wasps lay their eggs into pest insects and when the wasp eggs hatch, they feed on the pest species.
Pollination. Many of the good insects like native bees, honeybees, butterflies and moths help us pollinate our crops and gardens. They transfer pollen grains from flower to flower that help plants bear fruit.
Decomposers. Insects also help aerate our soils by breaking down dead material and recycling nutrients. Dung beetles are a great example! They bury and consume dung which improves soil quality.
Insects are very important to our ecosystems and provide services that can benefit humans, plants and animals. For more information about insects or insect identification, please contact Ag/Natural Resources Agent, Danielle Sprague at the Jefferson County Extension Office by phone 850-342-0187 or by email email@example.com. You can visit the Jefferson County Facebook page where we will be sharing information on different insects during Bug Week.