insect - 2003

…why do insects exist?

there’s more than a million insect-types. and thus theoretically also
more than a million answers.

but really this question is rather unfair. maybe the question should be
formulated differently: what if there were no insects anymore? scientists
have asked themselves this question, and even though of course
prognosis varies, one point is agreed upon by all: human life as we know
it would cease to exist. entomologists give humans, after the
hypothetical extinction of the invertebrates (of which insects form
the majority), another 10 years. however fast our demise, a vanishing
of the insect-population would in any case have devastating effects.

insects are important, vital, for us, mainly for their services, the most
apparent of which is pollination. plants fall back on animal assistants
because they cannot move freely. insects pollinate a vast amount of
plants, especially those important for us; fruit-bearing plants as well
as vegetables as well as onions, garlic and chilli, coffee, tea, cocoa…
the soy-bean doesn’t require pollination, but visits by bees and other
pollinators increase its fruit-bearing abilities and resistance
and improves the harvest.

after our food vanishing our clothing would disappear. the most
important natural fibres wouldn’t exist without the adding of
insects. cotton wool for example is pollinated by insects.

if insects were to perish, humans would hardly miss them as a source
of food. however, the human independence from insects as a food-
source is an exception among the vertebrates. most vertebrates
depend on insects. for freshwater fish they constitute a main source
of food; amphibians need insects; smaller reptiles prefer insects;
insects and their relatives come up for more than a third of the
food-intake of feathered game and songbirds. the list of
insect-devouring mammals is long too…

insects are also the most important recyclists on our planet.
without them heaps of dung, dead wood and carrion would keep on
piling up. earth-bound insects fertilise and enrich the soil with
nutritive substances…

… and why do humans exist?