Think twice before you swat a fly or squash a
bug: A new study says insects contribute more than $57 billion a year
to the U.S. economy.

And
that is a very conservative estimate, said John Losey, a Cornell
University associate professor of entomology who conducted the study,
published in the current issue of the journal BioScience.

 There are more than 1 million named insect
species — and probably an equal number unidentified — making them the
most abundant life form on the planet.

The study focused on four particular services that bugs provide, and what the cost would be if the insects were gone:

  • Nutrition for wildlife.
    The researchers looked at how much is spent annually on observing or
    hunting wildlife, and how much these animals depend on insects for
    food. Value: $50 billion.
  • Pest control.
    Insects often prey on other insects. The researchers looked at the
    amount of damage done by pests, and the losses that would result if
    their predators disappeared. Value: $4.5 billion.
  • Pollination.
    The researchers looked at the value of crops that are insect-pollinated
    (not including crops pollinated by domesticated honeybees). Value: $3
    billion.
  • Dung burial.
    If not for dung beetles, manure on grazing land would attract more
    flies and parasites that farmers would have to control. Also, dung
    beetles help return nutrients to the soil. Without them, farmers would
    have to spend more on fertilizer. Value: $380 million.

The
study focused only on wild insects and did not count the value of
commercially produced insect-derived products, such as honey and silk.

Lawrence Abrahamson, an entomologist at the State University of New York, agreed the $57 billion figure is conservative.

“Most
people think of insects and go yuck. They think about mosquitoes and
flies. They don’t realize just about everything in life is affected
some way, somehow, by insects,” he said.

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