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The Buzz on Bugs: They’re Not Always a Pest

Bees and other insects, while at times perceived as a nuisance, perform a vital role in our society. (Darko Mares/flickr)

Insects don’t get the respect they deserve, but author David MacNeal is highlighting their importance and diversity in his new book, “Bugged: The Insects Who Rule the World and the People Obsessed with Them.” MacNeal says bugs aren’t living in our world – we’re living in theirs. There are 1.4 billion bugs for every human on Earth. Recently, views of one insect in particular, bees, have changed and more people recognize their importance. But MacNeal says other bugs are vital to our economy as well. “These two entomologists calculated, ‘OK, besides pollination, what other services do insects provide?’” he relates. “And they put that number around $57 billion (a year). “However, the incalculable figure was decomposition – recycling nutrients. I mean, who knows how much that would cost.” MacNeal says the work of beetles and other insects in processing dead matter and rejuvenating soil is perhaps the most crucial and overlooked role bugs play. It’s especially crucial for people who work on the land. MacNeal describes bugs as bio-indicators for the planet. In other words, when we look at the health of insects, we can understand how the environment is doing. “The more we look at them – which we are now, more so than ever – the better chances of future generations actually casting aside their aversion and appreciating insects as this kind of gateway to nature – really, this mediator between man and nature,” he states. MacNeal says bugs could play an even more vital role in the future, possibly becoming widespread as snacks because they’re a good source of protein. Medicine, too, could benefit. MacNeal says there is research into the use of scorpion venom in the treatment of brain tumors.