During one summer my young sons began bringing me insects that they had found lying motionless. They wanted to share with me their discoveries and have me photograph these finds for their scrapbooks.
As I photographed these intricate creatures I realized that here were representatives of the unnoticed, the unappreciated and the mostly unseen that exists all around us. But more directly, this was about life itself. These creatures were representatives of a vital living force, a miniature spark of life that is
essential to the life and functioning of our planet.
From the first arthropods that emerged from the seas over 400 million years ago, insects coevolved with the Earth’s flora to help create the world as we know it. Appearing about 200 thousand years ago, humans evolved within a diversity of species that was already millennia in the making.
The Earth depends on insects and their arthropod relatives for its’ very existence. They pollinate our crops, pastures and woodlands, disperse seeds, recycle organic waste, aerate, fertilize and rebuild our soil and help to keep pest populations in check, thereby reducing our dependence on harmful pesticides.
Insects are the critical link between plants and animal life. Plant eating insects become the primary food source for other insects that then become the primary food source for many birds, fish, reptiles and mammals which then become food for even larger animals. In many parts of the world, insects play an important role in the human diet by providing essential protein and minerals.
It is estimated that there are two million insects for every human on Earth. Only 1% are known to be significant pests. Insects comprise 85% of all known animal species and account for 80% of the total biomass of all terrestrial animals. There are over a million classified insects yet scientists believe there are millions more undiscovered. Every year some 200 new species are described.
Insects demonstrate the infinite variety of ways in which life can manifest itself. They differ markedly in their form and mass, in the ways in which they see and hear, feel and touch, eat and breathe, reproduce and develop into adulthood. Because of their small size, insects have been able to exploit every available ecological niche; adapting to nearly every climate and location on Earth.
“If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.”
E.O. Wilson – The Diversity of Life