Class blog for sharing and commenting on current events in biology.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Why we need insects - even the pesky ones

By Harry Pyle
Why we need insects – even the pesky ones
This article discusses the importance of insects to the world’s ecosystem. If insects were to disappear, many plants and vegetation would lose their defensive properties originally intended to fight off insects. This would result in plants that wouldn’t be able to defend themselves and if a famine was to arise, even a small one, the effects would be devastating. It was proven that these effects could settle in in the short period of three or four generations, which shows how dependent plants are on insects. This article also talks about how with the loss of capable defensive plants, many preferable traits would be lost as well such as good taste and medicinal properties. The article closes on a note suggesting that future farmers are trying to breed more defensively-adept plants and decrease the use of pesticides. This is becoming more and more necessary as plant’s genes are being tampered with. “’One of the things farmers are trying to do is breed agricultural crops to be more resistant to pests,’ said Agrawal. ‘Our study indicates that various genetic tradeoffs may make it difficult or impossible to maintain certain desired traits in plants that are bred for pest resistance.’”

This is a very insightful article as it describes an important part of future human life. If insects ceased to exist, there would be a big change in the ecosystem of the world and it would take effect very quickly. It would affect pharmaceutical and herbal medication industries because their plants would become weak and stop producing some of their medicinal properties. On top of that, every plant would become much more prone to famines as they would stop producing defenses. If insects did not exist, these industries would eventually be hit hard with problems. They are not the only industries that would be affected. The grocery store business would be in jeopardy as well. With their plants being on a success-failure existence with little reliability, they would lose much revenue provided from that business which would result in many people losing jobs. This wouldn’t happen gradually over time; it is a very quick process. “’This experimental demonstration of how rapid evolution can shape ecological interactions supports the idea that we need to understand feedbacks between evolutionary and ecological processes in order to be able to predict how communities and ecosystems will respond to change,’ said Alan Tessier, a program director in NSF's Directorate for Biological Sciences.” While insects seem like a very small part of our lives and are generally viewed as an annoyance, without them the ecosystem of the world would be disrupted and would send many aspects of society into turmoil.

            My thoughts towards this article were generally positive. Alan Tessier and Anurag Agrawal backed up their points with reliable experimental evidence. Each point they made was relevant to the subject at hand and had important real-world application. The article offered interesting insights about something I had never even thought of before and gave me a reason not to wish insects didn’t exist. However, this article did not discuss the effects that insects already have on the environment (the reason pesticides were invented in the first place) and how decreasing the use of pesticides will initially affect the yields of crops. However, the overall essence of the article was well-written and it is definitely worth reading.
NSF Staff. "Why We Need Insects - Even 'pesky' Ones." Why We Need Insects -- Even 'pesky' Ones., 5 Oct. 2012. Web. 07 Oct. 2012. <>.



  1. The article Harry chose is a great article to keep in mind when squashing an innocent little bug. As Harry pointed out, we may not realize how important they are to our ecosystem. Harry’s summary is informational and captures the essence of the article while still being able to talk about every important point, such as the importance of ecological interactions, human disturbance in the natural order, and the consequences of the interference. We must find the fine line where we can and can’t modify natural evolution of plant life. I like how Harry went even further into the topic and pointed out the affects of this plant tampering on the economy. The loss of the insects will affect the traits and yields of plants, which are so important for industries like the pharmaceutical, herbal, and other small businesses.
    The article and review brought up a few interesting and new facts to me. I did not realize that insects played such a large role in a plant’s life. I knew insect-plant interactions were important, but I never thought of such of a domino affect of human manipulation. Also, it was very interesting to me to learn that if you limit the interaction of plants and insects, you will create a new generation of plants with different characteristics. I was aware of this case in wild animals becoming dependent on human feeding, but I did realize that the same could happen to plants.
    Harry’s review on this article is an excellent summary on a very important topic, especially today. It really leaves an impact on us to stop and think on how we are affecting the world around us. It was very hard for me to find any flaws in Harry’s review. Maybe there is one, but I found the topic so intriguing that I really don’t see how his review could be even better than it already is. I will leave this challenge to others.

  2. Biology Spencer Cox
    Current Events comment 2 10/8/12

    The article that Harry chose was extremely informative and well written because it really made changed the way that you looked at bugs. We usually think of bugs as a annoying pest that has no purpose apart from constantly annoying us, sucking our blood, and making our skin itchy. After reading this article I now see bugs as a much more important thing in our world. One thing that I thought was particularly well presented was the information about how plants would not be able to defend against any insects at all without these small annoying bugs. After I read this part of Harry's summary I really thought about how bad things could get if plants were unable to stand up to insects and would constantly be dying. Not only do some plants supply us with food, but they also supply us with oxygen and take carbon monoxide out of the atmosphere. If plants were constantly dying because they couldn't defend against insects then we would have a serious problem. Another aspect of this review that I thought was well presented was the explanation of how drastically our ecosystem would change without insects. Not only do many animals eat insects, but they also provide a basis for that species of animal to survive and be able to have purpose. If insects were not around animals such as geckos would have to eat something completely different they could potentially not exist at all. A final thing about this article that I thought was very well presented was some of the properties that plants would lose without insects. I honestly never thought that the resistance plants had to build up against insects would have an affects on not only the properties of the plant, but the taste of plants that can be eaten and what medical properties they have. The review Harry wrote did a great job of explaining how this would be affected without insects. Out of the many things that I learned from this article the two things that impressed me the most would be how the plants properties would be affected without insects, and how drastically our ecosystem would be changed without insects. I would have never thought insects would be such a big part of our lives and yet we seem them to only be a pest and to serve no purpose at all. In all honesty Harry's article is completely flawless. It covers all keys points of the article and goes into great detail about how insects affect not only us but all animals in the world. The article is not to long and wordy and kept me interested until the very end.

  3. Harry’s review of the article “Why we need insects- even the pesky ones” was informative and written well. The review starts by explaining how crucial insects are to our ecosystem and what the results of their disappearance would be. I think this was well articulated and was really interesting to read about. Harry brings up the point that if insects weren’t here, plants wouldn’t be able to defend themselves and that is something I have never thought of. In the second paragraph, I thought Harry connected the article to society very well. There was an obvious thread connecting to jobs and our ecosystem that Harry followed and explained. Also, in the third paragraph I agree with Harrys point on the article not discussing the insects impact previously and I would have liked that included too. This review as well as the article taught me was about the big of an impact insects have regardless of their small size. I am not really a bug person and I think of them now as more of an importance to our world than I did before. The review also taught me more about how farmers are trying to limit the use of pesticides. The quote Harry added was useful and helped get his point across. Overall, I thought this review was really good and I don’t think there’s anything Harry should change about it. He summed up the article nicely and kept me wanting to learn more about this subject.

  4. Andrew Lemberger
    Comment response

    Harry wrote about the importance of Insects in our everyday lives and to the future of us, as a people. Harry did a great job of explaining the devastating effects of loosing insects, and how this would effect how we live. He goes into detail of the consequences towards plants, if insects were to be lost and how that would affect us. Harry is also very clear and articulate in his writing giving us a clear insight into what he is trying t convey. Harry talks about how if insects weren’t here then the plants themselves wouldn’t be able to defend themselves. He says that if there were to be a famine than this would essentially be endgame. I also thought it was interesting how he brought up the point that insects also affect the taste and quality of some of our foods, I honestly never would have thought that insects would play such a huge role in the production of some of our basic foods. Even the best responses have room for improvement, in Harry’s I thought he was very concise but almost to concise. I feel he could have cut loose more in that he could have tried to convey a more relaxed tone in his writing instead of keeping it so formal. Besides this minor stich I believe that harry was successfully able to convey the importance and urgency of the need for insects in our everyday lives specifically our plants and foods.

  5. the review "why we need insects" posted by Harry Pile is on an extremely interesting topic on a subject that I have always wondered myself. this article has a strong opinion and tells the reader what will happen if bugs were to cease to exist. I find it extremely interesting that without bugs plants will stop producing defense mechanisms and will be less prone to famine. obviously bugs are extremely important and the whole ecosystem would be thrown off. I never Realized bugs did more then annoy you. I enjoyed his tone as a speaker but if I had to add one thing I would talk more about what would happen to the whole world if bugs disappeared not just about the problems of the plants.