As my husband and I were working in the yard a few weeks ago, we came across all kinds of bugs and we started wondering abut the purpose of insects.
Of course there are some insects that are easily associated with a purpose; bees make honey and pollinate, ladybugs eat aphids, and butterflies pollinate. But what about wasps and flies and spiders? There are so many of them and they can be real pests, especially when they bite us.
So we got online and started searching and the many articles online were quite enlightening! Did you know that there are an estimated 30 million insect species on our planet? Of those 30 million we only know of about 900 thousand living species. Most insects don’t bite and of those who bite, the most venomous are harvester ants, wasps and bees. But wasps and bees won’t bite you if they are not provoked, so when I’m around bees and wasps, I always think of the book “Secret Live of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd and send out love.
Essentially, all insects (and bugs) have an important role in our ecosystem. Some serve us in a direct way (i.e. pollinating) and some indirect (i.e. feeding the insects that are pollinating).
The wasp is one of those insects that are easy to dislike and if you wanted to get rid of them, you can find plenty of chemicals that help you do just that.
But look at these facts from wiki: Almost every pest insect species has at least one wasp species that preys upon it or has a parasitic relationship with it, making wasps critically important in natural control of their numbers, or natural biocontrol. Parasitic wasps are increasingly used in agricultural pest control as they prey mostly on pest insects and have little impact on crops.
Wasps generally leave humans alone, unless they are disturbed or they feel that their life is threatened. During the fall months wasps can become aggressive because they are focused on collecting sweets and carbohydrates. So try to keep anything sweet sealed and if they come to bug you, gently brush them away or wait for them to leave. You can also keep a sweet dish away from where you and the kids play to keep the wasps away.
If they don’t hurt you, don’t hurt them either. If you are allergic to them get rid of them in a humane way. Best time to remove their nests is between June and August and at night when they are sleeping. Put a bag over their nest, tie it off and put it in the freezer. Toss into the trash in a couple days.
Flies are beneficial in many ways and they are also very harmful in others. Flies help control other insect pests, they act as scavengers and recyclers when they feed on decaying waste such as dung and dead animals and of course, they serve as food themselves for other insects and many birds. Flies are also great pollinators. Only bees and some wasps pollinate more plants and flowers than flies!
Our ecosystem needs flies, but we don’t need them where we eat because they also carry diseases and lots of germs with them when they land from the dog poop outside on our food in the kitchen.
Keep flies out of your home by keeping your doors and windows covered with mesh or fly netting. If you have a yard, clean up any animal waste and keep a fly trap in the farthest corner away from your home. Trash cans should be kept closed at all times to keep the flies and other insects away from the smells of garbage. And if you have a lost fly in your home, practice catching them and then release them to the outdoors, so they can continue to pollinate your fruit trees and your garden.
Spiders are also very beneficial because they feed on pretty much anything that gets caught in their nests. They catch those pesky flies that you don’t want in your home. They eat moths and beetles that might get into your cupboard to lay eggs in your dry food. And they also are great entertainment for the family when then get something caught in their nest.
There are some spiders that are venomous, but spiders in general only bite if they feel threatened or if their home gets invaded. They are shy creatures and oftentimes the web that they spun for their nightly dinner catch will be gone by morning when the sun rises.
To avoid getting them in your home or to avoid threatening their homes, it’s best to clean in and around your home often. Inside the house, clean behind couches and desks to prevent them from finding good hiding places. Outside, clean around the house and keep leaves and brush away from the walls. Keep wall crevices clean and your home clean so they won’t find refuge there. And if you find them in your home, scoop the spider up in a cup, cover it while you are walking it out the door, and release it back to freedom where it can actually eat those other pesky bugs that you don’t like. You can also vacuum them up you are afraid of it.
Whatever bug or insect you want to get rid off, think of their benefit to our ecosystem and to the circle of life and get rid of them without chemicals if possible. Chemicals are just as bad for you as they are for any bugs!
A Happy Fall Season to you all and also a safe and fun Halloween!
This article appeared in the on-line magazine for actors The Networker, in October 2012.