So, you hate insects, right? We too don’t like them and will be more than happy to see them disappear from the face of this planet that we call home. There will be no need for insecticides, pesticides etc. to protect the crops from insects and pests. This will mean high quality food. There won’t be thousands of deaths all over the world because of malaria, dengue etc. It will be a beautiful world, right? WRONG! Think again before you start with your mission of wiping out all insects from earth. No insects on earth will mean mass extinctions. From plants to animals to humans to marine life – almost everything on earth will be pushed to the brink of extinction in just a few years. Why so? Allow us to explain.
First thing you need to know about bugs and insects is that not all of them are harmful. In fact, most of them are harmless to humans. It is just their appearance that of course, our myopic view of the crawlers and critters make us humans so repulsive to them. According to Goggy Davidowitz, professor of University of Arizona’s Department of Entomology and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, absence of insects will tear apart our planet. The question is ‘Why?’
Why No Insects on Earth Will Mean Mass Extinctions?
Davidowitz explains starting with plants. In case you are not aware, 80% of plant life on this planet are all angiosperms, i.e. they are flowering plants. How do flowering plants reproduce? The method that works here is that pollen from a male anther has to be physically transferred to female stigma inside the flower. Who do you think does this job? Yes, insects like butterflies, bees, flies and beetles are blessed with the responsibility of pollinating these plants. In very rare cases bats and birds or wind do this job. In case the insects are removed completely from earth, the first thing that will happen is most of the plant life from earth will vanish. What does that mean? Yes! Earth will be a less greeny place to live. But that’s not the only consequence.
Don’t forget that in most parts of the world, humans are highly dependent of these flowering plants for their dietary needs. Exactly how much. Well, that can be anywhere from 50 to 90% of dietary needs by calories as well as volume. So, if about 80% of world’s plants are wiped out, the very survival of human race will be threatened. Just to let you know, wheat, rice etc. that we are heavily dependent on are all angiosperms but luckily most of staples like rice, wheat, corn etc. are self-pollinating or wind-pollinated. Still, we cannot survive on just a few staples because they won’t address all our nutrition needs. Will they? So, no insects on earth will mean mass extinction of plants.
One may argue, ‘hey, we can eat meat!’ Of course we can but meat isn’t capable of fulfilling all our nutrition needs. On top of that, once we all start eating meat on a large scale, what do you think will happen to the wildlife of this planet? Just forget about humans replacing 100% of their veggie diet with meat in the wake of insect-apocalypse. Let us focus on the impact on animals. Most of the animals we eat are dependent on flowering plants for their diet. For example, cow, chickens etc. We almost forgot. Many freshwater fishes are also dependent on these flowering plants. In absence of the angiosperms, the survival of these animals will be threatened too because their primary food source will be wiped out. This will lead to dramatic fall in our meat supply as well. So, no insects on earth will mean mass extinction of animals too!
Now think of the animals that thrive on insects. In simple terms, what will happen to those animals that eat insects? No insects will mean no food for them as well and hence, their survival will be threatened too! They will become extinct!
Assuming that we manage to kill all insects from this planet, what will happen next? In a short time frame you will notice the millions of dead bodies and carcasses spread all over this earth. Who do you think helps to decompose these dead bodies quickly? Right! Insects and when insects are not there, decomposition of dead bodies and carcasses will take way longer time than usual. In case you argue that fungi and bacteria will do the job, you need to stand corrected. Yes, fungi and bacteria will do the job but the process will be significantly slow down in absence of insects. It will be a very grim scenario, don’t you think so?
The Important Question: Is It Possible To Have No Insects on Earth?
This is a good question. It may really seem impossible to wipe out all insects from face of earth because there are way too many of them. However, we need to reevaluate our thinking. Let us take the examples of firefiles. How many of these glowing beetles you see now-a-days? Not many right? This is happened because of human encroachment on their habitats and we have almost wiped out the fireflies. You may find this article interesting.
Also, we can divert our attention to bees. Many of the natural habitats as well as commercial hives have been decimated over time. What has caused this? Three reasons – habitat loss, increased usage of pesticides and diseases which are caused by these pesticides.
These are just two examples. Let us divert our attention to global warming. You may hear of arguments like global warming is preventing ice age etc. But hey, did you even know that global warming caused by human activities has tripped the nature’s delicate balance, especially the spring-time sync of flower blooms and insect hatching? What really is happening? This critical sync has been disrupted by a time span of several weeks. What’s really happening is that either the flowers are blooming too early or they are blooming too late. When this happens, these flowers fail to fertilize. In return, the pollinators are left hungry and starving because of the timing mismatch. Research on this mismatch has been revealed in Current Biology in 2014 where scientists studied spider orchid and miner bee – the pollinators of spider orchid. The research specifically mentioned that miner bees appear too early in flower cycle, i.e. they appear before the flowers bloom and all this is being caused by climate change.
So, it may really happen that in time we may end up wiping out insects because of our activities and eventually end up destroying this earth. From insect apocalypse to Armageddon – isn’t that frightening? What will you do to save this earth? Remember that no insects on earth will mean mass extinctions and we will be hit hard!
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