Monday, February 25, 2008

Beneficial Bugs?


Even the mere mention of the word bugs some people. But insects, as bothersome as they sometimes are, form a crucial part of the balance of life on earth. Without them, we would not survive very long.

Insects form a critical part in the pollination of plant life. Some insects fly from flower to flower retrieving the sweet nectar in its bloom. Along the way, it picks up and moves pollen from one plant to another, causing the plant to begin its reproductive cycle. Without insects to transmit pollen, the plant would have to rely upon the wind or larger animals, both of which are unpredictable. By producing the nectar, the flower is virtually guaranteed to get a visit from an insect.

Insects produce products that we use on a daily basis. Honey is a prime example of one of the benefits that honey bees produce. Bees also produce another valuable product - wax. Beeswax has been used for years to create candles, giving mankind the ability to see into the darkness. Shellac is made from the secretions of the lac insect. It is a natural polymer and is a component used for wood finishing, and surprisingly, manufacturing foodstuffs that need a shiny, edible coating, such as candy. And don't forget silk for clothing; it comes from the silkworm, an insect noted for its silk-bearing cocoon.

Not only do insects provide items for human use, they are also food for many larger animals. While generally considered taboo by most agricultural societies, insects provide tremendous amounts of proteins and are often a big part of the diet of some aboriginal cultures.

Thus insects are not just harmful or pesky creatures, but they also serve to benefit us.

In October, 2007, Canada Post issued a 5-stamp issue showing beneficial insects of Canada. The insects depicted are the convergent lady beetle (ladybug), the golden-eyed lacewing, the Northern bumblebee, the Canada darner, and the cecropia moth. This is a low-valued definitive set and can be purchased from Canada Post for a low price.

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