A Bug’s Life

 

Licensed under Commonwiki

Does this scene look familiar in your kitchen? Enough to give you goosebumps?Yes would be my answers for both questions.

 

 

 

 

I have never been fascinated by insects and bugs. I was never one of those kids who spent my afternoon catching butterflies or digging up worms for fun. Even the movie ‘A bug’s life’ did not change my opinions of bugs and insects as repugnant animals. I did ‘play’ with insects at one point. Behold, when I say ‘playing’, what I really meant was fencing ants with drops of water to block its way. Like most girls, I would scream and jump onto a higher ground at the sight of cockroaches. At desperate times, I would find myself trying to bash it with my footwear or the nearest object I could find. If you are wondering what happens to those ants and cockroaches… Well they never did see another light of day.

 

 

Licensed under Commonwiki

 

Is there really a place where you neither see nor hear about insects? NO. You just cannot avoid it. You even have your teachers and professors telling you the importance of insects to our ecosystem.

Fate has it, these insects made it to youtube’s trending videos. Before I knew it, I had started watching the video. One video leads to another; from carnivorous caterpillar that eats up flies to hornets being burnt alive by the Japanese honey bees.  Perhaps most of you are over the peculiarity of stick insects and leaf insects. So did I. The insects in these videos are nothing like those ‘normal’ stick insects. I was particularly intrigued by parasitic wasps that invade a caterpillar’s body and mind. These larvae release a virus that tricks a wounded caterpillar into thinking that the larvae are her offspring. Hence it was only natural for the caterpillar to protect its ‘children’ from predators till its death. Here is something I thought I would never say – I feel sorry for that caterpillar.

Parasitic wasps eggs seen hatching out of a caterpillar

                                                                                    Source: Under Creative Commons Licensing

 

Insects are just another prey to other organisms, including other insects and larger organisms. Yes I have always dreamt of a world free of insects, ergo a malaria-free world. But I guess that would not be ideal. An insect-absent world would mean no honey from bees and no silk from silk worms. There would be no one to aid the plant pollination process, resulting in huge loss of crops yield and a fall in economic growth in numerous countries. Absence of the braconid wasps lead to a massive increase in vegetable pests. Even the annoying cockroaches are crucial in helping recycle dead trees and plants, whilst mosquitos act as water pollution patrol officer.

It is impressive how Mother Nature has its way of controlling different organisms in the food chain and maintaining the right number of a certain species of insects. Human activities such as deforestation have undeniably disrupted this balance, endangering as well as driving some species to extinction. According to entomologist Jeff Boettner of University of Massachusetts, many insects occupy a very narrow geographic range. Hence even the tiniest deforestation can eradicate their habitats. Meanwhile extinction of other organisms such as birds and lizards indirectly endangers some insect species which rely on these larger organisms as hosts through parasitic relationship.  Losing these insects will have impact on decomposition and soil processing, eventually damaging our ecosystem.

Despite their small size, insects play a big role but are often overlooked. If everyone treats insects as pests, there would not be any insects left for the future generation. How many more insects have to be lost before human realise that they are an integral part of our lives?

Sources:

1. National geographic Body Invaders [Video]. (2009). Retrieved August 11, 2013, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMG-LWyNcAs

2. National geographic Hornets from Hell [Video]. (2008). Retrieved August 11, 2013, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5QxUR-mZVM

3. National geographic: Mass extinction of insects may be occurring undetected (2005), from http://news.nationalgeographic.com.au/news/2005/09/0920_050920_extinct_insects.html

 

 

Faustina Setiawan is a Msc Biotech student in the University of Melbourne. She is hoping that one day she will get over her fear of insects. 


17 Responses to “A Bug’s Life”

  1. setiawan says:

    @ Rizky: Thank you for your comments. I certainly hope my post will raise awareness of insect’s importance

  2. Rizky says:

    Great post. I find it sad that people are not very appreciative of the insects around us.

  3. setiawan says:

    @Darwin: glad you find it useful. 🙂

  4. Darwin says:

    Fascinating post. This really makes you think about the diversity of nature, thanks.

  5. setiawan says:

    @LiangMa and Priti, great to know you guys enjoy the reading.

  6. Priti Arora says:

    Interesting post, Sari. Like every other girl I have always hated these creepy creatures but after reading your post I have learnt to respect them for their vital role in nature. Thanks for bringing this change in me 🙂

  7. Liang Ma says:

    WOW,those insects play a important role in nature. From cockroaches’ own point of view, they are successful evolved creatures. From my point of view, they are so hard to kill, mate! Anyway, great post!

  8. setiawan says:

    @ vivian: Thanks. I think killing cockroaches is just any normal girl’s reaction :p

    @whlau: Thanks. Psst secretly I do feel a bit sad knowing that cockroaches will never extinct, at least not when I’m still alive.

  9. whlau says:

    Great Post. But it is sad that cockroaches will never extinct and it can survive under extreme conditions.

  10. lohv says:

    Interesting post!

    But I’d still kill cockroaches when I see one.

  11. Faustina Setiawan says:

    Thanks Jeane and Deepika.

    Even mosquito play a role in water quality. In water areas, a higher number of mosquitos found is indicative of a cleaner water and of a higher quality suitable for drinking.

  12. Deepika says:

    Like many others, I too dislike these creepy crawlies. But look at how big a role they play in nature. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  13. Jeane Angelina Prasetya says:

    I also dislike bugs, insects, and those related in the Insecta classes. Yet, reading your post make me appreaciate bugs more! But, how about mosquito? 🙂

  14. Faustina Setiawan says:

    Thanks Semiha, Stephanie and tranv. I’m glad that I have somewhat convince people to get to know insects. 😀

  15. tranv says:

    I was one of those kids who use to dig up and play with insects (except for cockroaches… can’t stand them too). But I agree that they are so important in our survival and I think the majority of us just take them for granted as they are so tiny! Thank you for this interesting insight about insects 🙂

  16. Stephanie Milne says:

    I loved the style of this Faustina. Fascinating article, I feel so sorry for the caterpillar with the parasitic wasps, nature can be so cruel. And so clever. Great post 🙂

  17. Semiha Uyar says:

    My brother used to love insects when he was a little kid. He would be able to name all sorts of insects and give facts about them at the drop of a hat. They are such amazing creatures. Definitely need to learn more about them. Thank you for sharing!