BENEFICIAL INSECTS IN SERVICE OF MANKIND AND PLANET EARTH
Updated: Dec 13, 2020
Insects are small but mighty and provide useful services to humankind and the environment as biological control agents. They pollinate crops we rely on as food and clean up waste so that the world does not become overrun with dung. It is the little creatures that make the world go round.
Pollination is the transfer of pollen from a male part of a plant to a female part of a plant, enabling fertilization and producing seeds, fruits, and vegetables. It is one of the essential biological processes for the world’s ecosystems, with an invaluable contribution to agriculture. We better understand how significant pollination is, primarily done by the honeybee, when the global bee population decline along with production. The roughly estimated global value of crop pollination service as of 2020 is USD 462 billion annually.
IPM- Integrated Pest Management combines biological, cultural, and chemical practices to control pests. When using biological pest control like beneficial action of predators, parasites, pathogens, and competitors, the chemical application should be precisely applied and target pest only. SIT (Sterile Insect Technique) is another example of the IPM method in which sterile insects are released to nature, compete with the natural population and reduce the pest population.
Edible insects to fulfill the food demand of the growing population, the current food production needs to double in size, which requires finding environmentally friendly and sustainable food production methods to meet the increasing demand. Insects can serve as an alternative protein source, rich with protein, fat, and fibers. Insect farming has ecological advantages by leaving a lower carbon footprint than chicken, cattle, or pork farms. The global edible insect market is expected to reach USD 1,181 million by 2023, driven by factors such as growing population, decreasing food resources, increasing demand for protein-rich food, high cost of animal protein, environmental sustainability with production and consumption of edible insects, and low risk of transmitting zoonotic diseases. However, non-standardized regulatory frameworks worldwide, lack of awareness, psychological and ethical barriers, and allergies due to insect consumption are the major factors restraining market growth.
Insect for recycling organic waste- Due to rapid urbanization, changes in demographics, and consumer behavior, municipalities, and decision-makers face new challenges in organic waste management. More than 1/3 of the food produced annually is wasted or lost, around 1.6 billion tons per year. Insects offer a unique opportunity to solve organic waste disposal’s rising global challenge and significantly reduce organic waste volume. Waste treatment by BSF (Black Soldier Fly) larvae, Hermetia illucens L. is exceptionally efficient since the larva have a voracious appetite and can feed on various organic waste.
Insects for Biotech Biomed and industrial uses- as the most successful group of organisms from a biodiversity perspective, they have developed a giant arsenal of active ingredients and enzymes that we can use to create new drugs from bugs and new material for industrial use. Insect biotechnology exploits insects or insect-derived molecules, cells, organs, or microorganisms – as products for applications in medicine, plant protection, or manufacturing. For example, BSF prospers and flourish in an organic waste environment full of bacteria and pathogens, yet it does not transmit diseases to humans. AMP’s (Anti Bacterial Peptide) might be one explanation to the BSF resilience and a future alternative for antibiotics.