I is for Insect
There are a LOT of insects in the world. Some estimates put the number of living species as 30 million, only 900,000 of which have been described. They are incredibly important to us – pollinating our crops, feeding us and other creatures, eating up poo- without insects we’d be neck deep in the stuff, breaking down wood and organic matter so that it becomes easy for bacteria to finish off the job and fertilise land for us to grow crops… their uses are legion, and not only that, some of them are exceedingly beautiful. Butterflies for instance – and dragonflies.
A lot of insects are very specialised. The loss of a single species could have far reaching effects as yet unknown to to us – for instance, a fly which lives on another fly could, if it dies out, mean that the first fly population gets out of control, causing problems like human diseases, or crops to be damaged.
We need insects.
Here is a fun poem – not about the dragonfly (although there is one of those in my book, Animal Magic) but one about the bombardier beetle. The bombardier beetle is an incredible creature.
It has a red thorax and legs and black wing cases and back. It has an extraordinary adaptation, two reservoirs of chemicals near the back tip of its abdomen, produced from glands inside. One reservoir contains hydroquinone and the other one hydrogen peroxide – when the beetle is threatened by a predator, it releases these chemicals with a popping sound, and they mix into a noxious, explosive, boiling hot spray which the beetle can control and direct with accuracy at its enemies killing them instantly.
Like most insects, because there are just so many of them, the bombardier beetle has not been assessed by the IUCN Red List, and its status is not known. However there are 3 ground beetles classified by the IUCN Red List as Near Threatened, Vulnerable and Critically Endangered, and one extinct.
Insects are becoming extinct every year – no-one knows how many, as they don’t know how many there are to start with. However a single tree in a rainforest, when examined, usually contains insect species unknown to science – and hundreds of acres of rainforest are cut down every day.
Illustration and poem etc © Liz Brownlee. This post is copyright material with all rights reserved, please do not re-post elsewhere – you may link to it.
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IUCN Red List for Threatened Species: IUCN.
Bombardier beetle info: Wikipedia