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Wednesday, 8 November 2017

INSECTS – The dedicated workforce on Earth

Suvarna Khadakkar (NIRMAN 5) is pursuing her PhD in entomology from Nagpur University. She is telling us the interesting facts about the insects…

Surviving through every era and every period,insects are functioning day and night without claiming for any recognition. According to geological time scale, first insect appeared about 408 million years ago in the Silurian era along with jawed fishes and land plants. Insects appeared after the emergence of first vertebrates competing with them and surviving alongside. After the first appearance of insects they saw ages of fishes, amphibians, and reptiles come and go and now they are surviving through the age of mammals. They never dominated any epoch or period and never asked for any acknowledgement.
The ancient Egyptians were the first to record and document the importance of insects as suggested by the interpretations of their hieroglyphs written in both Greek and Latin. Earliest records shows that Egyptians recorded the behavior of dung beetles and made a connection between dung beetle and Sun. Egyptians had an insect God named ‘Khepri’. Egyptian hieroglyphs devoted to ‘Khepri’ are probably the oldest written ichnoentomological (paleontological traces of insects) reports on insects.
Insects! So advanced they are, that they did adapt the capacity to fly among invertebrates even before the birds could as vertebrates.
Simplicity percolates through the definition of insects too which recognize any living organism with three pairs of legs and two pairs of wings with a segmented body. With size ranging from millimeter to centimeter they have proved that your size never matter if you are dedicated to your work. None the less, ants can carry food multiple times of their weight and a mantis which can prey on hummingbird.
The insect world is a collage of organisms from tiny silverfish which play hide and seek with us while we are busy going through some old reference collection of books; the nasty appearance of cockroaches in our kitchen can irritate many; the humming of flies and mosquitoes which disturb our nap; a hairy caterpillar feeding voraciously on leaf of our favorite plant in the garden; a bug sucking on our pet dog which we love the most. Off course this picture is way annoying that one may want to get rid of all of them and why not?
But, have you ever thought what good insects are doing for all the living organisms including humans? Let me give you a glimpse of what insects are doing for us… We are because insects are… Tiny flies mingling in the flowers of various plants and crops are doing the most important work for us through which we are able to procure our grains and vegetables and fruits i.e., pollination. Wasps and other bugs act as parasites and predators controlling the pest population in various crop fields minimizing the usage of insecticides. Even, tiny dung beetles employ themselves clearing the excrement of man and cattle and burying it under the soil, the value of which is little realized because of the thoroughness and regularity through which this work is performed leading to minimize the occurrence of various parasitic diseases which could have raised havoc in public health. I will not say about honey and wax and silk and lac and many more which is very familiar information for all of us. Ecologically, the presence and absence of insects can act as an indication of the diverse flora and fauna of a particular area.
The most amazing feature of humans and of all mammals is to take care of their progeny i.e., ‘parental care’ which shows one of the highest degrees of emotional behavior. This behavior can be taken as peculiarity of mammals (such as humans, chimps, cats, dogs, etc.) and is only found in highly developed forms in animal kingdom. Such parental behavior is found in some orders of insects apart from social behavior of ants, bees and termites. A pair of beetle for example builds nest which is guarded by male or female of the pair. The pair prepares brood balls (made of dung) on which their young ones feed. Female choose male on the basis of his capacity to build nest and brood balls for the future generation.
Oh, and how can I forget the beauty which butterflies fill in our lives and gardens and terrace and where not? The coloration in butterflies and beetles is a way varied.
Want to hear about the adaptive nature of insects? Developmental stages of most of the insects comprise of a larval form and a totally different adult form. You may have seen various caterpillars feeding on leaves which after a definite interval of time pupate and emerge as a butterfly. Ever thought why is this so? Insects have managed to use the food resources so efficiently that a caterpillar feed on leaves of plants while the adult feeds on fruits. And there will be equal distribution of available food in adults and larva.
The social insects such as ants, bees, wasps, termites constantly remind us about the strength in unity.
Coming to an end of this article all I can say is this Earth belong not only to humans but each and every living form inhabited on Earth and the care, the respect which we show to other humans should also be shared with other life forms as well even as small as an insect. The next time you see an insect thank him for all the good they are doing for us. You can thank me too for sharing this info…:D 

Suvarna Khadakkar, NIRMAN 5

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