Insects are everywhere
Insects are a mirror
Insects are a window
Insects are essential
We also keep coming back to insects because they are, however we may feel about them, extraordinarily important to the earth’s functioning as well as our own. Insects help aerate the soil by burrowing through it, and nourish it by leaving their droppings. They eat dead plants and animals that otherwise would clutter up the planet, and release the nutrients back to the soil. They control populations of other invertebrates and vertebrates alike, by eating them or their food or by making them sick. In turn, insects provide food for other organisms.
John Losey from Cornell University and Mace Vaughan of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation calculated the economic value of four crucial tasks performed by insects: pollination, recreation, dung burial, and pest control of animals that eat crops, including other insects. The total bill? Over $57 billion in the United States alone, and that just includes so-called “wild” insects, not domesticated honeybees or silkworms or other species that are reared commercially by people.
Insects are equal opportunity
Insects are hidden
Insects have personalities
The world of pollination goes far beyond honeybees
Are insects gay?
Insects are great parents
Insects can learn – and teach
Learning happens in many kinds of animals, and in many different ways. Bees learn to find nectar by following their nestmates to a field of flowers, for example. But true teaching is a different story, requiring that an animal help the pupil while paying some price for the lesson, usually the time and effort required for the demonstration. Finding an occurrence of this narrowly defined behavior in nature has been daunting, and until very recently scientists had essentially no examples of real teaching by animals. Just within the last few years, however, researchers have found three cases of it — one in a bird, one in a mammal (the meerkat), and one, incredibly, in ants.
In at least one ant species, a single worker will actively recruit another ant to follow her to a food source or a new nest, or just to explore a new area, in a process called tandem running. The lead ant goes in front, while the follower keeps contact by tapping her with her antennae. If the follower gets behind, the leader waits for her to catch up. According to Ellouise Leadbeater and her Queen Mary University of London colleagues, “The intimate interaction between leader and follower in a pair of tandemly running ants at first sight bears all the hallmarks of a parent teaching a child to ride a bicycle.”
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