The Relationship between Insects and Humans

The relationship between insects and humans can be quite complex because it fits into all three categories of a biotic relationship; therefore, this association can be one of parasitism, commensalism, or mutualism. Depending on which category the relationship is at the time, people decide to take action to either combat or encourage insects in the world. If an insect has become a pest, humans seek to eliminate it from their homes; however, if the bug is helping in some way, such as controlling the population of another pest, people will promote this behavior. Hence, it can be concluded that insects have both definite advantages and disadvantages in the environment.

One problem that people have with insects is that some of them can be parasitic. Examples of parasites include bed bugs, lice, and mosquitoes. Some bugs (flies, mosquitoes, ticks, etc.) can also transmit diseases to humans. Furthermore, termites have the power to cause significant damage to structures. Another disadvantage of insects, such as locusts and weevils, is their power to destroy crops, costing the agricultural business dearly.

Although bugs have various negative impacts on humans, their positive contributions far outweigh any harm they cause. Insects are necessary for pollination, which is the most important function of their role in the environment. Wasps, bees, butterflies, and ants all contribute to the process of pollination, a mutualistic relationship between plants and insects. Pollination is vital for the production of fruits, vegetables, and nuts. This process also serves to strengthen the genetics of plants which helps overall agriculture. In the larger picture, pollination is needed to sustain all life on Earth; without it, the food chains and food webs of the world would collapse, causing the destruction of all human life.

Not only are insects advantageous because of their role in pollination, but they have many other benefits. For centuries, civilizations have valued the honey produced by bees. Other bugs create valuable goods such as silk, lacquer, beeswax, and dyes. Insects are invaluable for natural and biological control of other insect populations; insectivorous insects consume other bugs that pose a threat to agriculture and buildings. An illustration of this relationship can be seen in the way that ladybugs hunt crop-eating aphids. Throughout history, various bugs have been celebrated in diverse cultures (Egypt valued scarabs, Greeks cherished bees) or relied upon for consumption. Insects are also used for the fabrication of drugs and medicinal substances. In recent years, some bugs have even aided in the studies of genetics. As a valuable agent for soil health, insects serve in the process of decomposition which helps aerate and fertilize the soil.

Despite the problems that insects can cause, they are a necessary part of life. Bugs provide many needed services and are critical for the continuity of all life. While pollination is the most significant function of insects, they also impact several other areas of life including production of various substances, biological control, culture, medicine, research, and soil health. Always keep in mind that insects are a vital part of nature that fulfill crucial functions in the environment and are beneficial to humans.

Original sources:

http://www.si.edu/Encyclopedia_SI/nmnh/buginfo/benefits.htm

http://www.riverdeep.net/current/2002/03/030402t_insects.jhtml

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insects#Relationship_to_humans

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