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Interesting insects

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I happened to catch part of an interview on NPR recently with author Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson, whose newly-released book, “Buzz, Sting, Bite: Why We Need Insects,” is stirring up a swarm of interest in all things entomology-related. Also author of the Sunday Times bestseller, “The Extraordinary Lives of Insects: A Hidden History of the World,” ecologist Sverdrup-Thygeson advances our awareness of the creatures comprising nearly half of the animal kingdom, and their under-appreciated but vital importance to our own lives.

Many of us would prefer to see certain insects eliminated from our earthly experience. As annoying as they are, fruit flies, for example, have been critical to medical and biological research that resulted in six Nobel prizes, Sverdrup-Thygeson points out. Insects turn dead plants and animals into soil, pollinate flowers and provide food for other animals. Blowfly larva can clean wounds; flour beetle larva digest plastic, and some species have been essential to the development of antibiotics. Insects even provide natural control over organisms that can be harmful to humans.

Alarmingly, insect numbers are declining, a trend Sverdrup-Thygeson attributes to combined factors related to land use, farming and forestry practices, pesticides, a decline in natural remnant habitats and climate change. “All of this affects insects,” she writes. “And anything that affects insects affects us… we have everything to gain by caring a bit more about insects.”

If you can make it to Philadelphia this weekend, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University hosts its annual celebration of insects, “Bug Fest,” on August 10–11, where visitors can catch a “Bedbug-sniffing Dog Demonstration,” among other exciting entomology topics. 

And don’t forget to mark your calendars for the celebration of one of our most important insects—honeybees—at the popular Narrowsburg, NY Honeybee Fest on September 28.

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