I know my title is a lazy reference to a scene from the Monty Python movie The Life of Brian, but I think it is appropriate given all the recent talk about the decline of insects around the world. Does it matter if all the insects disappear?
Many (most?) people only notice insects when those insects are affecting them directly and in a negative way, e.g. stinging them, biting them, annoying them with buzzing, or chewing on one of their beloved plants (like the Grapevine moth Phalaenoides glycinae larva below).
The vast majority of insects are not pests, nor are they what we might call beneficial insects (i.e. beneficial to us humans). Most insects are just out there doing their thing, being a part of their particular ecosystem, being part of the web of life. Insects play extremely significant roles in pretty much every terrestrial ecosystem on Earth. In fact insects are the biological foundation for terrestrial ecosystems.
Imagine a world without insects and you are imagining a world without many of our pollinators, and therefore many flowering plants. You are also imagining a world without many (most?) insectivorous fish, birds, bats and other small mammals. Then imagine the knock-on effect of losing those animals – for example, what fed on those particular fish or birds? On and on it goes.
A world without insects also means a world without most of the creatures which help break down and bury wood, carcasses and dung (dung beetles like the one pictured above are dung-burying specialists). If we lose the insects we also lose some important soil aerators and fertilizers – for example, in the arid parts of Australia termites and ants replace earthworms.
Maybe we shouldn’t be asking – what have insects ever done for us? Maybe we should just accept that insects are vitally important to the terrestrial ecosystems of this Earth. Maybe we should be asking – what have we ever done for insects?
I’m lucky to live in an area where Dainty Swallowtail butterflies occur. The larvae of these native butterflies have adapted to feed on cultivated citrus (such as lime and lemon) as well as native plants of the family Rutaceae.
So what do you do when big caterpillars are chewing chunks off your citrus leaves? Not a lot!
There is a line in my book Garden Pests, Diseases & Good Bugs which says: A citrus tree with a few chewed leaves is a small price to pay for the pleasure of observing beautiful swallowtails in the garden.
I hope you enjoy the video.
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There I was testing out some video equipment in the garden and later realised that I had enough footage to edit into a video story. The story teller has put himself in the video as well!
In this video I talk about controlling/suppressing tomato russet mite (Aculops lycopersici) so that the last of my tomatoes can ripen.
Tomato russet mite is a widespread, microscopic but serious sap-sucking pest of tomato plants particularly during hot weather. The pest may enter your garden on hot winds. Adult mites are minute (about 0. 2mm long), torpedo-shaped and white to yellowish in colour. Nymphs are similar in shape, white and smaller.
Tomato russet mites usually feed on the underside of leaves. The first symptoms are usually seen on the lower leaves and progressively move up the plant. Leaves initially turn a silvery colour, but later turn bronze, curl downwards and become dry. Stems and leaf stalks become smooth and brownish.
Tomato russet mites breed extremely quickly and can complete their life cycle in less than a week during hot weather. Each female lays about 50 eggs, which combined with their rapid life cycle means numbers of mites increase very rapidly. The mites can be controlled with sprays of insecticidal soap, lime sulphur, or wettable sulphur.
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