“If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.”
– E. O. Wilson
Too often, we humans like to see ourselves as above or perhaps not even connected to the “animal” kingdom. But the more we learn about the species we tend to underestimate, the more we can adjust our perceptions and behavior towards an earth-friendly way of life.
Along those lines, did you know that bees communicate on a highly sophisticated level? For example:
“When food is discovered by ‘scout’ workers, they return to the hive. Shortly after their return, many foragers leave the hive and fly directly to the food. The remarkable thing about this is that the foragers do not follow the scouts back (the scouts may remain in the hive for hours). So the scout bees have communicated to the foragers the necessary information for them to find the food on their own. It turns out that the scouts can convey to the foragers information about the odor of the food, its direction from the hive, and its distance from the hive.”
Pretty impressive, huh? Combine that with the reality that bees pollinate one-third of the food we Homo sapiens eat and well…maybe we need to figure out a new way to value them—and all of our multi-legged co-inhabitants.
Let’s start with a few ways in which we can choose to perceive bees:
Annoyance. The sound of a buzzing bee can send many humans into a fear frenzy. If only we were as wary of planet-raping, mind-controlling corporations as we are of minuscule insects.
Exploited. As detailed by PETA: “Like other factory-farmed animals, honeybees are victims of unnatural living conditions, genetic manipulation, and stressful transportation … Profiting from honey requires the manipulation and exploitation of the insects’ desire to live and protect their hive.”
Endangered. I have three words for ya: Colony Collapse Disorder.
Invaluable. More than 100 agricultural crops in the United States are pollinated by bees. “Bees help to pollinate a wide range of food crops, including fruits, nuts, spices and vegetables,” writes Amanda Hepburn at Vegging Out. “Without bees, food production would fall dramatically.”
Despite all this, we still hear plenty of nonsense about “killer bees” along with other alleged threats, like this:
I recall a 2010 article ominously entitled, “Day of the Grasshopper Looms,” by Stephanie Simon of The Wall Street Journal, that serves as a fine example of misguided and misplaced blame.
In that piece, Simon told us how “hungry swarms” of grasshoppers can cause “hundreds of millions of dollars in damage” when they devour corn, barley, alfalfa, and beets. Of course, no mention that much of those crops are grown using genetically modified organisms, heavily sprayed with pesticides, and typically reserved for doomed livestock. No need for context when you write for the corporate media.
Simon also wrote of cows unable to find grass without talking about those cows being slaughtered to support the industrial meat-based diet or the climate damage that diet causes. Nah, let’s instead talk about solutions (sic) like aerial spraying of the pesticide Dimilin.
Simple suggestion: Don’t demonize insects when it’s us humans who are treating the planet like it’s an orbiting outhouse.
Some of the many ways we can view a grasshopper:
Pests. Some context from John R. Meyer, Department of Entomology, NC State University:
The mass media continually reinforces the belief with reports about killer bees, giant grasshoppers, poisonous spiders, and crops destroyed by marauding bands of insects. This cultural indoctrination has produced a society that seems to be increasingly consumed by efforts to eliminate insects from all facets of daily life.
Pest control has become big business. Nearly 75 million pounds of broad-spectrum insecticides are manufactured and sold each year for use in American homes and gardens. Annual revenues from insecticide sales to homeowners exceed $450 million.
This notion of “pest” is unique to humans and completely anthropocentric. We define pests in terms of our own standards of good and bad—standards that are often based largely on aesthetics, economics, and personal welfare, and shaped by cultural bias and personal experiences. In reality, many of the insects we label as pests are essential components of our natural ecosystem.
Food. Birds, lizards, mantids, spiders, and rodents eat grasshoppers.
Athletes. We all marveled when Michael Jordan took off from the free throw line and dunked, but a typical grasshopper can jump 30 inches. If His Airness could jump that many times his body length, he would be able cover an entire football field in a single leap.
- Crickets are nocturnal. Grasshoppers are diurnal.
- Grasshoppers are more vividly green than crickets.
- Crickets do not fly.
- A cricket’s antennae are longer than a grasshopper’s.
- A cricket has its ears in its legs. A grasshopper’s legs are located in its abdomen.
Part of the Big Picture (like all of us). As herbivores, grasshoppers link plants to the rest of the ecosystem. Their droppings contribute to nutrient turnover by returning nutrients as fertilizer for the plants.
Speaking of turnover, when was the last time you showed some love to the lowly earthworm?
Charles Darwin, after making a careful study of our squirmy pals, reached this conclusion: “It may be doubted if there are any other animals which have played such an important part in the history of the world as these lowly organized creatures.”
Here are few other ways to see the earthworm:
Ecosystem Engineer. As earthworms tunnel through the soil, these passageways allow air and water to circulate to soil microorganisms and plant roots. The gang at BackyardNature.net explain: “Each year on an acre of average cultivated land, 16,000 pounds of soil pass through earthworm guts and are deposited atop the soil.” Without such plowing, soil would become compacted, air and water wouldn’t be able to circulate in it, and plant roots would be unable to penetrate it.
Full of (Good) Shit. Darwin calculated that if all the worm droppings (rich in nitrogen, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus) resulting from ten years of worm work on one acre of soil were spread over that acre, it would be two inches thick.
Food. Weasels, otters, mink, frogs, pigs, raccoons, birds, snakes, and turtles are just some who will occasionally dine on the slow-moving earthworm.
As Henry David Thoreau did. “A worm is as good a traveler as a grasshopper or a cricket, and a much wiser settler,” HDT wrote. “With all their activity, these do not hop away from drought nor forward to summer. We do not avoid evil by fleeing before it, but by rising above or diving below its plane; as the worm escapes drought and frost by boring a few inches deeper.”
Love x 5: How could you not absolutely adore an organism with five hearts?
To sum up, what creatures like bees and grasshoppers and earthworms leave behind enriches the ecosystem while most of what we humans leave behind kills it.
So yeah…I’ll say it on mo’ time: It’d be great if corporations paid more taxes or if single-payer health care were enacted but such changes would ultimately fall into the proverbial Titanic/deck chair category if our eco-system is not restored and respected.
This is also why we must continue to #Occupy and never surrender the goal of fashioning an alternative form of human society—based on consent and voluntary cooperation—as soon as fuckin’ possible.
We are the 99%. Expect us. Join us…