Spoiler alert: It’s not good.
A common reaction when people see a bug is, “Eww… gross,” or “Kill it with fire!” But have you ever thought about how important these little creatures are to the Earth, and the survival of the human race?
As it turns out, humans would be in big trouble if insects disappeared. Within 50 years, all life on Earth would end.
"If insects were to disappear, the world would fall apart — there's no two ways about it," said Goggy Davidowitz, a professor in the departments of entomology and ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona, in conversation with Live Science.Yes, there would no longer be those pesky mosquito bites, no flies constantly buzzing around your head, no wasp stings, and no more insect-spread diseases such as malaria, west nile, or dengue fever — which kill hundreds of thousands of people every year. Farmers would no longer need to use harsh pesticides to protect against insects. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, more than 500 million pounds of chemicals are used annually to fight against bug infestations.
That sounds pretty good right? Too bad most of us wouldn’t be able to reap the benefits… most of us would starve to death. Approximately 80 percent of all Earth plants are angiosperms, or flowering plants, that require pollination from either bees, butterflies or other pollinating insects. Sometimes the wind and animals are able to assist with pollination, but the majority is done by insects. Without these pollinators, most plant life on Earth would disappear.
SEE ALSO: Zombie Bees Encroaching on Eastern US
Between 50 and 90 percent of the human diet comes from flowering plants, since angiosperms include the grains wheat and rice, as well as fruits and vegetables. These food staples also make up the diets of the animals that people eat, including chickens, cows, pigs and most freshwater fish. "Most of our food is insect-dependent," said Davidowitz. "If insects disappear, a lot of mammals and birds disappear, too, because if you don't have insects pollinating, even those animals that don't eat insects won't have fruit and foliage to eat. It does have a domino effect."
It gets worse.
Have you ever thought it would be a good thing if dead trees, animal carcasses and human bodies did not decay as fast as they do now? Well that is exactly what would happen. Although there would still be bacteria and fungi, insects are also a huge part of the decomposing process; therefore, decomposition would take much longer. Just imagine piles and piles of dead things.
What else could go wrong?
There would no longer be silk or honey. If you have been following the news, we are seeing a massive decline in honeybees today — mainly because of pesticide exposure, climate change and habitat loss. It may not be that much of a stretch to imagine a world without these dedicated pollinators.
So the next time you feel the need to kill a bug hiding in one of the corners of your house, maybe do what I do — grab a cup and a piece of paper and take it outside. Not only are you saving the life of a fellow species we share this planet with, you are doing all of humankind an enormous favor.
You might also like: What Would Happen if Earth Stopped Spinning?