Knowing your friends from your foes

If ever there was an article the world should be made to read it is this one. Recently highlighted to me by a neighbour who complained about the fact her home was awash with millipedes, crickets, moths and beetles dropping dead for no apparent reason. When I later remarked at how relatively fly-free her home was compared to mine, everything became clear. It seems twice-yearly her husband dons breathing apparatus and a hazmat suit to spray some unnamed but highly effective fly repellent around their home. Just like that, the mystery of the almost apocalyptic insect deaths that were happening throughout her home were solved – a broad-spectrum pesticide was annihilating all the arthropods – Agatha Christie eat your heart out.

Sadly for the arthropods, and us too, while less than 1% of the known insect and non-insect arthropod species are considered a pest, and of these only a few hundred have been proven to be constantly problematic, we seem to have a history of ‘kill them all’ in both our homes and workplaces.
This blanket approach to insect control could be far more costly than the insects we are trying to initially control, as Hannelene Badenhorst from the University of the Free State explains in this article for Farmers Weekly.

In it, she discusses how insects provide far more ecosystems services that we rely upon than simply pollination, however, that should be enough to change our approach. She uses brilliant examples to drive home her points, including facts such as spiders collectively devouring between 400 and 800 million tons of prey species annually. A conversation point I will use at social gatherings, if they ever can happen again, both to illustrate arthropods contribution to biological pest and disease control and to justify why I never dust my cobwebs! The article looks at other ecological services arthropods provide, including nutrient cycling, aerating the soil and improving its capacity to capture and retain water.

Her take-home message, beyond the need to take an integrated pest management approach over to controlling the few arthropod species that truly are pests, rather than blanket spraying them all – beneficial species included – is the need to understand how insects select hosts species when opting for an IPM approach.

Click here, to read on.


Photo by Krzysztof Niewolny on Unsplash

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