Blessed are the bugs

Mark Sherman“A new study made at University of Washington suggests that global warming seems to lead in fact to more insects. Warmer climates seem to increase their reproductive rate and population growth, with widespread effects on agriculture, public health and conservation.”
— from Softpedia.com, November 1, 2006

 

“I don’t like the country. The crickets make me nervous.”
— Marlon Brando (as Terry Malloy) in “On the Waterfront” (1954)

 

You know, everything in life is a trade-off, and while most of us are concerned about climate change, that’s taking a selfish attitude. It turns out that if scientists are right, one group of living things that will just love our warming planet is insects. As the song says, “Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it…”; and it appears that with temperatures rising, the bees, the fleas, and all the other insects are going to be doing a lot more of it.

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If you already love bugs, you’re in luck. And if you don’t, if you find them bothersome or disgusting (or they make you nervous), it’s time for an attitude adjustment, because it looks like that Biblical prophecy, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” should be changed to “Blessed are the bugs, for they shall inherit the earth.” The meek, in fact, won’t do very well with climate change. In fact, even meek bugs will have a better chance than meek people as temperatures rise.

I have to admit that I never liked insects, except when I was a boy and had a lot of fun playing with ants. My play wasn’t always so nice, but I was just a child and I didn’t realize that ants had families that loved them. Anyhow, as I got older, and spent less time sitting on the ground playing, I began to find insects of all kinds, including ants, to be very annoying.

Turns out that there are people who love insects, so I assume that the fact that our warming planet will be just what insects want will make these people very happy. And there is a message for the rest of us: Welcome our little crawling, flying, buzzing, and biting friends into your life. There are already far more of them than there are of us, and that ratio is just going to get bigger.

When I say there far more of them, I mean they way outnumber us. Entomologist E. O. Wilson estimates that the number is “about 10 quintillion or the number 10 followed by 18 zeros…That means there are about 2 billion insects for every human being.” (howstuffworks.com).

Interestingly, shortly before that article came out citing University of Washington researchers saying that those greedy insects were going to increase in numbers, there was one on another website talking about a museum exhibit in Seattle. It was titled “Antenna Alert: Burke Museum’s Bug Blast Will Be a Hive of Insect Appreciation.”

To quote the piece, “‘If your kids are interested in bugs, this is the one time and place where they can find out that they’re not alone,’ says Rod Crawford, the Burke’s curator of arachnids. ‘And parents will find out that their kids aren’t weird. And if the parents are grossed out, maybe this will help them a bit.’”

And a little further down, the article says something which would suggest that the expected rise in the insect population as the planet warms could be our salvation — if we are willing to make some dietary changes. “Visitors,” it says, “can even taste test several different flavors of fried mealworms and crickets.”

At first blush, this is encouraging. Although climate change probably means more storms and droughts, it’s nice to know that it could also be leading to a huge increase in a possible food supply. Of course, a switch to a diet of insects leads to some problems. For example, what will vegetarians do? I know that grasshoppers barely qualify as meat, but still, they are clearly not vegetables.

And as someone who watches his cholesterol, I am put off by the fact that the tasting mentioned above involves fried bugs. Can they be grilled or baked?

Actually, 80 percent of the world’s population already eats insects, so we might as well go along with the crowd. I’ve heard that chocolate covered giant ants are just the bee’s knees!

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