Over the past several decades, the Earth has experienced dramatic drops in its insect populations. Though insects are our most diverse and abundant group of organisms on Earth, we estimate that 40% of its species may soon be subject to extinction .
However, when most of us are confronted with this information, we’re not overly devastated. We often dismiss insects as disease carrying, sometimes dangerous, pests, however, the vast majority of our native insects are completely harmless. In fact, they provide a wide range of benefits to our ecosystems, communities, and daily lives.
Benefits to our environment
Insects provide innumerable services to Earth’s ecosystems. One of their most visible benefits is the fertilization of flowering plants. Many insects, such as butterflies and beetles, pollinate flowers as they feed, allowing those plants to reproduce. Insects also serve to decompose environmental waste and to fertilize soils. Our insects also act as a vital food source for mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, and even humans.
Benefits to our pockets
It’s pretty easy to underestimate the substantial impact that wild insects have on our economy! Although it may come as a surprise, insects are estimated to contribute $70 billion to the United States economy each year which is roughly equivalent to the annual economic output of Maine . This contribution is made through waste disposal, pollination, and production of goods such as honey and silk.
What wild animal can you get more up, close, and personal with than insects? Most of our childhoods are filled with memories of collecting and examining bugs in our backyards. We can interact with and learn about insects and their environmental roles right in our own gardens. Insects are the some of the most intricate and beautiful animals on the planet, and the opportunities for discovery are endless.
What can we do?
We each have a responsibility and the ability to conserve our native insects and we can do so with a few small steps. One of the most far-reaching steps we can take is to plant native! Through planting native, we can provide the resources and habitats needed for our insects to survive and thrive. To learn what plants are native and beneficial in your area visit https://www.nwf.org/nativeplantfinder/ and stay tuned with Sag Moraine to learn about native planting and the steps you can take to preserve our insects.
: Francisco Sánchez-Bayo and Kris A.G. Wyckhuys. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006320718313636?via%3Dihub#!
: Akito Y. Kawahara et al. Available at: https://www.pnas.org/content/118/2/e2002547117