Good Bugs
American Outdoor Guide|February 2022
These creative critters offer help to humans in a variety of ways.
By Michael D'Angona, Photography by Sumiko Scott/Getty Images

Sometimes, the tiniest creatures on the planet can cause the most trouble.

Insects have long been associated with biting, stinging, burning pain and all-around "creepiness" by many people over hundreds and even thousands of years. The bad bugs' thirst for tasty, tender human flesh has caused many people to stay inside their homes and forego the pure enjoyment of experiencing nature in the field, immersed in all its greatness.

However, these problem insects, such as mosquitoes, biting flies, blood-sucking ticks and stinging fire ants, have taken the spotlight - or, more appropriately, the negative press - and grouped the entire kingdom of insects as “pests" that should be eliminated at all costs.

But this isn't even close to true. In fact, most insects are beneficial in a variety of aspects, from pollinating plants and eating destructive or dangerous insect species to helping in the creation of medicines and pharmaceuticals, creating textiles, wax, honey and so much more.

Most people are more familiar with "bad" bugs such as mosquitoes and biting fire ants. Photo: Bigstock

Here, we'll take a closer look at these tiny helpers and perhaps offer a perspective that few people would seldom admit that there are good bugs out there, and their efforts interact with humans beneficially nearly every day.

A BAD REPUTATION

It first must be noted that these good bugs and their deeds aren't on the minds of most people, only because the bad bugs tend to interact regularly with humans on a daily basis. This might come in the form of an irritating mosquito that buzzes around a person's ears, neck and face at the hint of dawn or dusk.

A praying mantis is a valuable addition to a garden, because it devours loads of "bad" bugs every day. Photo: De Agostini Picture Library/Getty Images

It could also involve a tick burying its head under the skin of someone taking a short hike through the woods. A young child playing in the dirt might be overcome with biting ants crawling up their leg. No matter the scenario, the odds are very good that no human on the planet has escaped the torment of at least one form of insect at some point.

In addition, throughout literature, movies and television documentaries, bugs have, more often than not, been portrayed as troublesome creatures that destroy, bite and scare people out of their wits. Insects have rarely been portrayed in a positive light; therefore, they've caused the majority of humans to cringe and shiver at the sheer mention of these creepy-crawly creatures.

The monarch butterfly is a great pollinator, but it also faces a decline in population due to the encroachment of humans into their natural environment. Photo: Steve Russell/Getty Images

THE GOOD GUYS

Everyone knows about the bad bugs, but few people truly know the good bugs. Yes, honeybees come to mind for many due to the benefits linked to the first part of their name. However, many other insect species provide myriad benefits that are most probably never suspected by the general public; and what's particularly interesting and perhaps difficult to believe is that good bugs far outnumber the bad ones (for example, insects that harmfully destroy plants when they feed comprise under 1 percent of the entire total of insects on the planet).

But, back to the good guys.... and we're going to include spiders, even though they're technically arachnids (most people, however, place them in the bugs category). Good bugs include assassin bugs, which take out flies, mosquitoes, aphids and others like a pro; lady beetles, which target soft-bodied aphids, mites and mealybugs; golden silk spiders, which use their webs like oversized nets; and numerous others, including dragonflies, parasitic wasps, ladybugs and jumping spiders.

Loss of environment from human expansion is one cause of a decrease in "good bug" populations. Photo: Mint Images/Getty Images

NATURE'S HELPERS

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