Insects as friends of human beings
By Mazhar H. Ranjha, Muhammad Ahmad & Shoukat Ali
INSECTS, in general, are considered harmful or at least useless creatures. Many insects cause economic losses and indeed there are many species which are harmful to human beings too. But the ‘balance sheet’ of both advantages and disadvantages shows that insects are friends of the human race.
The mode of life of both insects and humans being exhibit many similarities. There are many insects which show parental care (lace bugs), apply laws of civil engineering to build their dwellings (termites), grow crops, employ division of labour, lead social life (bees and ants) and commit treachery but for the sake of their own food (lion ants). In addition to these, we find singers, weavers, engineers, workers, leaders, soldiers, slave lovers and many others among insect species as in human society.
Insects have experienced the bitter taste of life for a long period of time as compared to human being and have evolved as the most successful creatures on earth. Therefore, human beings must learn from them the ways to lead a successful life in extreme environments. The defence system, adaptability, coordination and the signaling system among insects are of great value to protect them in an efficient way, and human being must learn the art from them.
Human being derives a lot of benefits from insects. Silkworms weave knotless thread of almost 900m length. A bee in search for nectar for one kilogram of honey covers a distance almost six times the distance around the globe. Pollination of many flowers, the most important step in the formation of a fruit, among others is also carried out by insects. Pollination by insects is a very sensitive and complex process and, as a matter of fact, these are qualitative properties, which cannot be measured in terms of economic index.
Insects are combating 30,000 species of weeds, which are a threat to crops. Insects add to soil fertility by their mechanical movement plus producing humus and by burying their own bodies under the soil. In the case of insect scavengers the role of dung rollers is very important which decompose dung for sanitation at animal farms and at grazing fields. Insectivorous insects, predators and parasites are used as the most environmentally safe and economic control agents for insect pests.
Insects are the best experimental animals in almost all branches of zoological studies, for instance cockroaches, honey bees, wasps, silkworms, flies and many other insects are used all over the world to explore the mysteries of nature in the fields of genetics, ecology, biochemistry, cytology, embryology, environmental sciences, physiology, toxicology, neurobiology, and taxonomy.
The beauty of insects has always fascinated the art lovers. The beauty of butterflies and the songs of crickets are welcome to artists. Similarly, the color pattern and texture of insects attract textile designers, painters and students of fine arts to express their artistic approach towards natural beauty.
The rapid rise in population, migration to cities and urbanisation has resulted in scarcity of food. There is a debate that there would be a time when insects would be consumed as regular food. There are many instances that in the past human being used to take insects as food. No doubt insect eating is rare in the developed world, but insects are a popular food in many developing countries of Central and South America, Africa, and Asia.
At least 1,200 species of insects are eaten in various parts of the world such as Brazil, China, Korea, India, Mexico and Japan. According to modern research insects are a rich source of protein and vitamins but they are fat deficient. However, there are many cultural and social barriers in the adoption of insects as food.
The role of insects in the field of criminology: Forensic entomology deals with the knowledge of ‘time of death’ by using behaviour and development of carrion fly maggots, which are considered as the first witness to murder. There are many cases on record in which forensic entomology helped the police to trace the murderer by using all information about the presence of suspects on the place of the death and the time of the death. If forensic entomology is introduced in our investigation system there would be great deal of change in the outlook for the investigation.
The cordial relationship between insects and human being is not new. There was a respectable relationship even in the past. The ancient Egyptians used to worship insects. The galls of insects were used to dye robes of the kings. The permanent ink of the old scripts of history shines with a pride that shows the dyes made by insects had helped our ancestors to save their history. Being social animals, we must recognise the services of insects for the betterment of the community. Insects are sincere friends of human being and to lose a good friend is not a part of wisdom in any society.