(and a few spiders)
From National Geographic May 2020 Issue, ‘You’ll Miss Them When They’re Gone’:
Insects may sting or startle us, but they keep they planet livable. Every buzzing, crawling, and hovering insect is a cog in an ecological machine. Tiny, individual efforts add up to colossal benefits for life on Earth.
FIVE CRUCIAL INSECT JOBS:
PROVIDERS – Insects are in nearly every food chain. Many larger animals—birds, bats, amphibians, and fish—eat insects before they in turn are eaten by predators. The death of insects is suspected to be a leading cause of recent declines in bird populations.
DECOMPOSERS – Waste-eating insects unlock nutrients for use by the ecosystem that would otherwise stagnate in dung, dead plants, and carrion. Dung beetles process parasite-breeding and grass-killing cattle dung in 23 months versus the 28 it would otherwise take.
PEST CONTROLLERS – By feeding on crop-threatening pests, predatory insects perform the role of pesticides without chemicals. This cuts pest-control costs and increases yields, saving agricultural industries billions of dollars every year—while reducing toxic pesticide residue on crops.
POLLINATORS – Nearly 90 percent of flowering plant species and 75 percent of crop plant species depend on pollination by animals—mostly insects. Overall, one out of every three bites of food humans eat relies on animal pollination in the production process.
SOIL ENGINEERS – Termites (and ants) can transform soil in hot, dry climates. Their tunneling aerates hard ground, helping it retain water and adding nutrients. In some regions, the introduction of termites has turned infertile land into cropland within a year.
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For the Mossycup Farm Biodiversity Project, we have been using the iNaturalist app and Audubon Field Guides for the majority of our identifications. The photos in this database were all taken at Mossycup Farm in Granville Township, Ohio by myself (Jes Padgett) and should not be used without permission – just ask. These photos were shot with my iPhone, other than one or two which were shot with a Canon EOS 450D that I really need to learn. A handy little gadget I used for some of these photos is a macro lens clip that attaches right onto your phone and allows for detailed zoom shots (see record ‘Clavate Tortoise Beetle’). This fairly inexpensive tool is kind of a big deal, so definitely check it out if you love photographing tiny things!
Please be aware that I have no formal training in any field of biology or ecology, and therefore am NOT a professional entomologist, botanist, mycologist or any of the like. I am also not an educator, rather a student of nature. I simply enjoy learning about new species and their roles within our local ecosystems, as well as discussing observations and discoveries. This project is still a work in progress and I’m learning Airtable as I go. It is my intention to add a Comments section to each gallery page to encourage conversations about specific species, receive suggestions for alternate identifications (I’m sure there will be a few), share useful resources, etc. I’d also like your feedback on functionality and what you would like to see here in the future. No promises, but I’ll most definitely try to make it happen if it sounds like a neat idea!
Thanks for visiting and I hope you’ll enjoy this gallery as much as I enjoyed putting it together! – Jes