In search of ponies: All insects have role in the natural world

I was hiking with my dog many moons ago and as we sat resting and enjoying the mountain view, a ruckus from down below interrupted our peaceful contemplation.

There, thrashing and hollering, running full tilt through the woods, we caught glimpses of what appeared to be a Boyscout troop.

But there was no need to see the monster they were fleeing, their body language said it all.

Arms flailing and somehow managing to wiggle and run at the same time, the invisible foe terrorizing them might as well have been as big as life.

After all, sometimes that's just what happens when you find a beehive.

Of course not even close to the same magnitude, there was the time in my childhood when I was walking barefoot through a clover patch and got a bumble bee stuck between my toes.

Suffice it to say, with first impressions carrying the weight they do, these are the kinds of memories that become hardwired in your brain for a long, long time.

Last week, as I was writing a column on beneficial insects, I'll admit, I hesitated before making a "bad bug" list, knowing it was iffy territory because all insects have a vital role in the natural world, and therefor they are all beneficial on one level or another.

So much in fact, that I can never foresee a situation where eradication of any species is called for, no matter how annoying or potentially vicious they can be.

Even flies, which are undeniably gross and annoy us, provide the critical service of waste disposal by aiding in the decomposition of biological materials (go maggots!)

And bees, who I also named to the "bad bug" list, not only give us honey, but are great stewards of their worlds by pollinating plants and making our gardens healthy and beautiful.

Truthfully, even though some of their characteristics may land them on a "bad bug" list, an insect's impact on people and the environment needs to be weighed case-by-case. An angry bee hive = bad, a happy bumble bee carting pollen from one side of your garden to the other = good.

I was reminded of the distinctions when, in response to the beneficial insect column, a reader sent me a link to a story about a recently discovered solitary bee in the Middle East, the Osmia avoseta (definitely worth a Google.)

The closest thing to true flower faeries our world will ever see, the hard-working mothers of this species cut pieces from colorful flower petals to create little petal-mache cocoon nurseries bound together with nectar as cradles for their young.

These sweet, bee-made flower tubes are beyond beautiful in their perfection and the mother bee puts them together with the utmost care and attention to detail.

I will admit that while reading about the flower artistry, I cringed.

Bees are not all bad.

In fact, I like bees (from a distance) and have even sat and watched in fascination as lumbering bumble bees go from flower to flower in the garden and I even showed my children how to pet bumble bees (they really don't want to sting, but just don't take kindly to being squished between your toes).

On the flip side, those first impressions are there and I have also congratulated preying mantids when I saw them with wasps clasped in their pincers.

But in recognition of their contributions, I will apologize to the flies, because I am sure as heck glad somebody does that job, and I will also apologize to the bees out there because I know they work hard and give us much sweet beauty, but at the same time I will say I can't completely regret the fact the hunters view them as delicacies, at least in the areas where we humans tend to spend our time.

When it comes down to it, bugs are just one of nature's balancing acts. Like it or not, wherever there's a little yang, you gotta have a little yin.

Sharna Johnson is a writer who is always searching for ponies. You can reach her at:insearchofponies@gmail.com or on the web at:

www.insearchofponies.blogspot.com

Speak Your Mind

*