Each year, herbivorous insects are said to be responsible for destroying one fifth of the world’s total crop production (according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.)
But insects are hugely under-appreciated for their roles in maintaining ecosystems. For instance, insects are the main pollinators for flowering plant species that must be pollinated to survive. In this capacity, they affect 35 percent of the world’s crop production, increasing the yields of 87 of the leading food crops worldwide. (FAO)
Additionally, some insect species break down organic matter, and others produce valuable products such as honey or silk. Many species produce materials that are useful in pharmacology such as venoms or antibodies. Less than 0.5 percent of the total number of known insect species are considered pests, and only a few of these pose a serious threat to people.
But beyond their relationship with humans and our food sources, insects manifest on this planet in fascinating forms, exhibit interesting habits and adapt to almost every environment. We continue to discover new species, better understand insect behavior and explore their idiosyncrasies.
For example, did you know that houseflies taste by walking? That they can find sugar with their feet, which are about 10 million times more sensitive than the human tongue? Or that most aphids are born pregnant and can give birth when they are only ten days old?
And guess what? Termite queens are known to produce an egg every three seconds for 15 years. Over the course of her lifetime (which can be longer than 50 years,) she can lay more than a quarter-billion eggs.
There are a great many insects on our planet, and while some of their classifications and behaviors are common knowledge, a lot of facts might surprise you with their outlandishness.
How confident are you in your insect knowledge? Find out by taking this short quiz. Don’t worry, you don’t have to give your real name. Just have fun!