From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Insects as bioindicators
Mains level : Not Much
This newscard is an excerpt from the original article published in the DownToEarth. It talks about the ecological importance of insects.
Try this PYQ:
Q.Consider the following:
- Dust blowing
- Wind blowing
Which of the above spread plant diseases?
(a) 1 and 3 only
(b) 3 and 4 only
(c) 1, 2 and 4 only
(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4
Various threats to insects
- Insects are increasingly susceptible to extinction due to increasing climate crisis.
- They form the basal part of the food pyramid and impact our agriculture ecosystems as well as human health.
- Their extinction can have a cascading effect on the upper levels of the food pyramid.
- Rampant and indiscriminate use of chemicals in commercial agricultural practices, mainly monocropping systems, has been taking a toll on insects in the vicinity of farmlands and plantations.
- While everyone is talking about sustainability in agriculture, the role of insects has largely been ignored.
A few common insects whose existence is taken for granted and their ecological relevance are:
- They are important pollinators like bees.
- Species diversity and density of butterfly indicate a good diversity of plants in an area. Several types of butterflies have specific host plants.
- Climate change, forest degradation, habitat loss, unavailability of hosts and nectar plant species are among major reasons for a decline in butterfly population.
- This leads to loss of plants species that depend on the butterflies for pollination.
- Backyard gardening and growing host plants in public spaces are important strategies to conserve butterfly species.
- They are one of the most widely recognised insects, need clean aquatic systems and are hence a good indicator of the health of local aquatic systems.
- These, along with damselflies, are well-known biological predators with both larvae and adults acting as natural bio-control agents.
- They are highly sensitive to changes in their habitats and are declining due to increasing habitat loss, anthropogenic activities, pollutants, climate change and rapid urbanisation.
- For their conservation, use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides has to be prohibited or minimized in agriculture systems.
- They feed on different plants and can cause serious damage to economic crops.
- However, in a biodiversity-rich region, they are an important component of the food chain, being an important food source for many birds.
- Grasshoppers and insects such as crickets are often consumed by people as they are rich in protein.
- They are in the most abundance. Ants act as scavengers/decomposers by feeding on organic wastes and other dead animals.
- Ants also aerate the soil.
- Heavy use of chemicals in agriculture causes harm to ants.
(5) Wild honey bees
- They play a major role in the pollination of forest species affecting cross-pollination and maintenance of variability within species.
- Wild honey is also a food source for humans and many wild animals.
- When forest covers are lost, wild bees tend to migrate to newer areas where they may or may not adapt.
- With the possibility of commercial apiaries, wild bees need to be left alone and honey tapping from wild hives discouraged.
- This can help sustain the natural processed of pollination among forest species and maintain diversity in plants conventionally propagated through seeds.
(6) Rainbow leaf beetles
- They are found in forests, woodlands and mountain grasslands.
- They mostly depend on leaves and flowers of some specific plant family like Apocynaceae.
- These are listed as endangered species in International Union for Conservation of Nature from 1994.
- The species is also known to be poisonous to its predators for they feed on dogbane that contains poisonous cardenolides.
- They are a good indicator of a healthy environment, especially a good aquatic system. They avoid regions with chemical toxicity.
- They are good pollinators and natural pest control agents in several ecosystems.