Monday, February 14, 2011

Tracking insects

Many people view insects as a pest that must be destroyed. As one of the earth’s oldest species, having existed for around 400million years, they are however a vital part of the food chain and play a variety of key roles upon which we all depend. When you consider that 90% of the world’s mammals are insects you can begin to understand how life as we know it could not exist without them.

One area where insects often earn themselves a bad name is in agriculture. Some species of insect are known to damage and destroy crops. Beneficial insects however prey on those who do the damage and so protect the crop by controlling pest numbers.

Decomposition is an extremely important ecological function. Insects play a key role in breaking down dead plant and animal matter, keeping the earth clean and helping to return essential nutrients to the soil.

Insects play a vital role in pollinating our plants. Travelling from flower to flower feeding on nectar they carry the plant’s pollen with them. Without insects many plants would have no way of transferring their pollen and so would be unable to reproduce.

Part of the food web:
Insects are an essential part of the food chain. The diet of many of our best known animal, bird and amphibian species includes insects. Without large insect numbers rich levels of biodiversity could not be supported.
Why not try tracking and recording insect species in your home garden and local area.

•Get a long piece of string and map out a big loop in your garden, quietly examine how many different varieties of insect you can see within your loop to get an understanding of the insect biodiversity present.

•A great place to find insects is under rocks and logs. Why not take a look beneath them and see what insect species you can find. Be very careful not to squash your new found friends when putting the log or rock back in place as they are very fragile!

Things you can do to help insects in your home garden:

•Don’t squash them!

•Don’t use chemical pesticides

•Do leave leaf litter and rotten logs etc about for them to clear up and live amongst.

» Find out how else you can help to protect Sri Lanka's endangered species

Illustration by Asia Hewapathirana