I’m convinced that education of the public and farmers, is really key to help develop a balanced perspective regarding invertebrates, and their roles in the eco-system. I think this education needs to extend beyond the obvious – yes, many people recognise a butterfly and a bumblebee, but even here, our knowledge tends to be limited.
In addition, the feeling I get is that the threat of ‘pest’ insects and invertebrates seems to be exaggerated versus the actual threat.
Here are a few points I would like to see the public and farmers educated about:
1. Most invertebrate species are beneficial or harmless. Yet most invertbrates have a very low profile, and with the exception of a few beneficial species and a few ‘pests’, many are prone to mis-identification. For example, there are some solitary bees that are so tiny, they could be mistaken for little black flies! I think we need to become more familiar with species other than the handful we tend to be aware of!
2. “Only 1000 species of insect in the world are considered to be agricultural pests, but each year they destroy between 10 and 15 percent of the World’s agricultural produce.” – source - The British Natural History Museum.
3. There are over 1 million insect species in the world (Source: Australian Government:(see here -opens new window).
4. Based on 2. and
3. Figures above, therefore, an estimated 999 species out of every 1000 is
beneficial or harmless, and only 1 is a pest.
6. The value of the bees' services alone has been estimated at £200m a year, retail value of what they pollinate was valued closer to £1bn. (Source: The Economic Value Of Honey Bees: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/8015136.stm)
7. There are many important direct and indirect contributions made by all manner of species, from hoverflies, butterflies, lacewings, and ladybirds to earthworms and various beetles and ‘low profile’ invertebrates – all not quantified, since none of those species ever sent a farmer or gardener a bill!
8. Despite the high profile of honey bees, only 12% of UK adults were able to correctly identify them in a recent Friends Of The Earth Survey - so what hope do the majority of beneficial insects have?
9. If farmers and the public had a more balanced and better understanding of the contribution of invertebrates, they may be more motivated to find environmentally methods of gardening and farming, and more likely to accept ‘imperfect’ fruit and vegetables.
10. A 30 year study by the Rodale Institute showed that ultimately, organic farming methods match production of intensive, environmentally destructive methods of farming, and exceed it in some climate conditions. How many farmers would be aware of this research, I wonder?
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