by Blake Newton, Extension Entomologist
It's Earth Day! That means it's Insect Day!!
There are approximately 1 million named species of insects. That's more than ALL OTHER ORGANISMS COMBINED. There are merely 5,000 species of mammals. 300,000 species of plants--a pittance. One species of human. Feh. Insects are the most diverse, the most important, and the best and the coolest organisms on earth (hey, it's Insect Day, so I get to say that).
New insect species are discovered every year (a few thousand). Others go extinct every year.
Kentucky has approximately 15,000 species of insects. Each has a crucial role in its ecosystem. Many plants could not survive without insects to pollinate their flowers and spread their seeds. Of the thousands of species in KY, only a few dozen (mostly wasps and mosquitoes) are dangerous to people.
Many of the fruits that humans eat are pollinated by insects. Many types of apples, pears, peaches, and other fruits would not exist without insect pollination.
Insects are found on every continent and in every ocean (check out Halobates, a genus of water strider that lives on the surface of the open ocean and preys on plankton and other small critters).
Here are some things that you can do to help Kentucky insects:
-install native flowers, trees, and other plants in your yard or garden
-remove exotic plants from your property
-protect our water! Insects need clean water (and the fish eat the insects!)
-support sustainable agriculture
-support legislation that protects our climate
-support legislation that protects diverse habitats from development
Most Important: learn which insects can harm you and your possessions. If an insect is trying to harm you or your stuff, kill it. With extreme prejudice. Protect the other ones.