Are There Any Good Bugs?
Bugs get a bad rap. Hardly a week goes by when we don’t hear a story about a fire ant infestation, a killer bee fatality, or out-of-control cockroaches. While some love to hear a good insect horror story, most bugs are beneficial. In fact, if it weren’t for the 5 million insect species on earth—and the 600,000 species of arachnids (spiders), worms, and centipedes—life as we know it would not exist. Of those millions of bug species, only a tiny percentage of bugs are considered pests. There a multitude of good bugs out there!
Take cockroaches. Please! Seriously, of the 4,500 different cockroach species, only about 30 live in human habitats and only a dozen or so are widely reviled as pests. Most species of cockroach live in tropical locations where they feed on all sorts of organic material from decomposing leaves to animal feces. The beneficial cockroaches redistribute the decaying matter as fertilizer, a nice term for roach poop. Without this, tropical ecosystems would be much less lush and green.
Worms perform a similar service. I know someone who is irrationally terrified of worms, so I don’t tell her that there are about 1 million worms under every acre of land. These critters annually produce forty tons of castings from the detritus they eat which can include dead leaves, cardboard, sawdust, and garbage. The tunneling behavior of worms also improves soil aeration, allowing the earth to better absorb water.
There are plenty of other good bugs which fall into the cute and cuddly category. Lady bugs feed on bad insects and help rid gardens, orchards, and vegetable fields of aphids which destroy food crops across the world. Praying mantises are also predators that dine on destructive bugs like caterpillars, moths, flies, and grasshoppers. And don’t forget honey bees. These busy bugs pollinate 71 of the 100 most important food crops including almonds, lemons, grapes, tomatoes, and carrots. Without honeybees there would be no wine, beer, or salsa. Ponder that when you wonder if there are any good bugs in the world!