BUGS

Throughout my life I generally haven’t been a fan of bugs. I don’t dislike them. I have just never been all that interested in them. However, a series of events over the past few months have led me to become a BIG fan. I want to start by defining the word “bug.” First of all the terms bug and insect are often used interchangeably, which is not entirely correct. Let’s start with insects – they are invertebrates. They are critters with an exoskeleton, three body parts, compound eyes, two antennae, and six legs. Insects are part of a larger group of arthropods, which also  includes arachnids (so spiders are not insects), crustaceans (like roly polies!), and myriapods (like centipedes and millipedes). Now, to make life more confusing, within the insect family there is an order of “true bugs” which have mouths shaped like straw or needle (such as bed bugs, cicadas, aphids, and water bugs). Commonly, though, people use the word bug to describe insects as well as other terrestrial arthropods. Perhaps the best way to describe bug-bugs then (insects and other arthropods), which is not at all scientific, is little creepy crawly critters.

My interests in the creepy crawlies began with E.O. Wilson (a famed US biologist and naturalist). He wrote an article titled, “The Little Things That Run the World (the Importance and Conservation of Invertebrates)” in the 60s, and I recently came across it. As you can garner from the title, the article detailed the importance of invertebrates, as well as their sheer volume in the world. Conservation tends to focus on vertebrates – wolves, beavers, rhinos, etc. And while protecting these species is inherently valuable, the real work should focus on conserving invertebrates because they, well, run the world. People also overlook the fact that while invertebrates don’t need us for survival (and would likely be better off without us), we very definitely need them. I won’t go into details, but without these little critters to run the world, biodiversity would all but disappear.

Since the E.O. Wilson article, I’ve read a few books including Buzzkill: A Wild Wander Through the Weird and Threatened World of Bugs (by Brenna Maloney) and Nature’s Best Hope: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants (by Doug Tallamy). I highly recommend both. Now I can’t stop thinking about bugs. In fact, I am so interested that I am off to build a bug hotel in my backyard. Really. Stay tuned…