- Bugs feed birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals (a possum can eat 4,000 ticks a week!). Scientists report that, except for seabirds, 96% of North American birds feed insects to their young. Birds NEED bugs!
- While some bugs get eaten by larger animals, other bugs eat the poop of those larger animals. Poop-eating bugs are a clean-up crew!
- Bugs pollinate our crops to help them reproduce. Without pollinators (bees, butterflies, ants, and flies), our crops suffer. Many crops, especially fruits, grow less successfully without pollinators—making the fruits less available and more expensive. Some crops, like cocoa, can’t survive at all without pollinators. A world without pollinators would have no chocolate!
- Bugs break down decaying matter. Earth worms, for example, turn dead leaves into new soil. Without earth worms and other critters breaking down organic matter, the world would soon be covered with piles of old dead stuff.
- Some bugs eat our crops, but other bugs eat the crop-munching bugs. Farmers are very grateful to beneficial bugs such as spiders.
- In some places people eat bugs, and food experts predict that many more people will do so in the future. Did you know that a giant water bug tastes kind of like Jolly Rancher candy?
- Certain bugs are used for medical conditions. Bee venom, the young of blow flies, and live ants can all be quite useful for specific medical needs.
- Bugs become useful products. Some cosmetics and foods contain a red dye that comes from cochineal scale insects. Shellac is made from lac scale insects, honey comes from bees, and silk is from silk worms.
- Bugs inspire our art, language, folklore, and fun: think of being “busy as a bee,” and of Spiderman, the Very Hungry Caterpillar, Anansi the spider, and centuries of myths, paintings, ballets, music, and children’s art showing butterflies as symbols of beauty and transformation.
Scientists estimate that because of pesticide use, habitat loss, and climate change, 40% of Earth’s species of insects are on the decline. That’s not good. So show some love—to bugs! Avoid pesticides, protect the plants that bugs depend on, and support pro-environmental causes. You’ll be super-helping the birds too!
By Christine Du Bois-Buxbaum