Why are bugs so vital?

Why are bugs so vital?

You can now listen to the latest episode of RTÉjr Radio’s science show Let’s Dive In here. On this show, your hosts Julie and Phil are joined by Collie Ennis to explore why insects are so important to life on planet Earth.

Here, 6-year-old Oliver asked us a very important question – why are insects important?

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Julie is here to help answer the question and tell us more about the show…

Before we answer that, we need to establish what an insect actually is. An insect is not a worm. Or a spider. An insect is very specific, says Collie Ennis, a zoologist, Critter Shed podcast host, and insect expert, who joined us on the show to help us out. “It has three body sections. It will have six legs. And this is how you will identify them. And many of them have wings or part of their life cycle around flying.”

Here are some examples, courtesy of 6-year-old Oliver: ladybug, cricket, fly, butterfly, rhinoceros beetle, ant, bee, hornet, wasp, grasshopper, dragonfly, virgin flu, praying mantis, escape,

Here are a few things insects aren’t: snail, spider, caterpillar, slugs, snakes.

Yup. Definitely no snakes.

But the caterpillar turns into a butterfly, which is an insect. How does this work? The process is called metamorphosis.

“It’s the larval stage of an insect,” says Collie. “And it’s very similar for a lot of insects like beetles, which are a big part of the insect world. Most insects are actually beetles.”

According to the Royal Entomological Society, there are more than a million described insects on planet Earth, of which around 300,000 to 400,000 are beetles.

So, during the life cycle of these insects undergoing metamorphosis, they start as an egg, turn into a larva, pupate and turn into an insect. This occurs in terrestrial insects and in ancient insects such as dragonflies and dragonflies.

“Their larvae are alive[s] underwater,” says Collie. “They hatch from an egg laid underwater by an adult. They will eat underwater. Have a predominantly aquatic existence. Climb a branch, split open and pull out of the old body. Then produce their wings, fly and reproduce, and the cycle begins again.”

These ancient aquatic insects have been around for 380 to 480 million years and have played an important role in the planet’s ecosystem. “People are realizing how important insects are.”

The reason they’re so important, Collie says, is because “insects are the cornerstone of our food chains and our food web.”

Everything depends on them when it comes to food to clean up the environment. “Without insects on the planet, even we would hardly exist. Next to plants, they are the most important living thing on the planet.”

So basically the bugs rule the world. “They ruled the world for quite a while before vertebrates came to land. It was literally the land of insects and arthropods.”

So, a take-home message – watch out for the bugs! Don’t kill ants in your house, follow the tracks and find out where they come from! Or if you have a mosquito problem, get a pet spider! They will eat them for you!

Tune in to the show to learn more about insects and why Collie would love to have a time machine and travel back to the land of insects and arthropods.

Make sure to subscribe HERE or wherever you get your podcasts!

AND read all the Let’s Dive In articles HERE with experiments to try at home!