Warm weather means a greater chance of encountering insects, but experts urge the fearful and squeamish not to hit.
Lies can be our friends, wasps are fighters for good, and ants are harmless even in the air.
That says Dr. Dara Stanley, Lecturer in Entomology at University College Dublin.
“Insects get a bad rap because people often worry about being stung or bitten, but insects are so important,” she said.
“They help all of our natural systems to function. They help decompose plants and animals, they keep the soil healthy, they pollinate our plants, and they help control pests.
“A lot of people are scared of wasps or don’t like wasps, but they are really important predators that feed on other insects that could cause us problems.
“They are like the lions of the insect world — they keep other insect populations under control.
“Ants are great ecosystem engineers”
“At the end of the wasp’s life cycle, around late July and into August, the wasp colonies get older and things start to break down, and then the wasps start feeding on sugary things.
“That’s when they come into contact with us people who also like sugar. We are united by our love of sugary substances.”
Bees can be tarred with the same brush or slapped with the same swatter, although they are rarely aggressive and are essential for pollinating wild and agricultural crops.
But also moths, butterflies, beetles and even flies, which are also important for the diet of wild birds.
Flying ants, an annual phenomenon at this time of year, are often greeted with horror, but Dr. Stanley asks again for understanding.
“Ants are great ecosystem engineers. They’re really good decomposers and eliminate a lot of plant and insect matter and also disperse the seeds of some plants,” said Dr. Stanley.
“If they fly, it’s because they’re reproductive and have evolved wings to try to escape and find new ants to mate with.”
Readers of a certain age may be wondering what all the fuss is about, as there was a time when the main summer sport in Ireland was the big fly hunt. Rolled up newspapers were always ready, cans of fly spray were on the shopping list, as were salad cream and empty jam jars, the remains of which were left on windowsills to catch the hordes of intruding wasps.
By comparison, it now seems you almost have to cover yourself in jam to get stung, and the rolled-up newspaper serves best as a telescope with which to hope for a sighting of a rare flying beast.
Exactly when things changed is difficult to determine because there were so many insects that no one bothered to count them.
The National Biodiversity Data Center was only established in 2007 and its director, Liam Lysaght, said there is still far too little systematic species monitoring.
“The longest running insect surveillance program is the butterfly surveillance program and it has only been running for 16 years,” Mr Lysaght said.
So while there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that insect numbers have been falling, hard scientific data is lacking.
“There is absolutely no doubt that the numbers have come down. I’m turning 60 this year and I remember the late 1960’s and early 70’s when there were insect clouds at night. There is now a fraction of insect life. What we don’t have is the evidence to capture the changes,” added Mr Lysaght.
The review of the last National Biodiversity Plan indicated the need for much larger data collection and Mr Lysaght would like to see a regular census of each insect.
according to dr Stanley faces the difficulty of monitoring insect populations worldwide.
“There have been some very good studies that certainly support the belief that the numbers are falling, but we have almost 12,000 species of insects in Ireland and globally it’s estimated that we have somewhere between five and 10 million because many are unnamed or not yet.” once discovered we just don’t know much about them.”
An additional challenge is that the learning objective is moving. Climate change enables – or requires – some species to move.
Two new bees crossing Europe to the UK arrived in Ireland in the last five years. Ticks that transmit Lyme disease are said to be increasing here, although the data is poor. And at least two mosquito species are well established, although not in sufficient numbers to pose a disease threat.
Still, the Health Protection Surveillance Center (HPSC), which has had to “deprioritize” investigations into malaria cases here during Covid, is expected to come back to the case before the end of the year.
The Ministry of Agriculture, meanwhile, must watch out for “bluetongue,” a virus carried by mosquitoes that causes great harm to livestock.
It has affected parts of mainland Europe, and any jump to the UK would likely be followed by an appearance here.
https://www.independent.ie/news/environment/put-the-swatter-away-we-need-insects-to-thrive-and-survive-say-experts-as-sun-brings-out-flies-and-wasps-41847163.html Put down the swatter — we need insects to thrive and survive, experts say, since the sun brings out flies and wasps