Incredible Insects

Chris Gomersall/2020VISION

Insects may be small, but they are vitally important to life on our planet, helping our ecosystems to thrive. Here we explore the wonderful world of these fascinating creatures.

Pollinators

When you think about the benefits of having insects around, pollination is probably the first thing you think of. There’s a good reason for this, since 87% of all plant species require animal pollination and most of this is delivered by insects. In fact, around three-quarters of all crop types grown by humans need to be pollinated by insects.

Bees often spring to mind as our key pollinators, but many other insects play important roles too like hoverflies, moths and even wasps. Kent is home to many rare species of pollinator and is one of the most diverse counties for these insects.

Kent Wildlife Trust’s Bee Road work, part of the Making a Buzz for the Coast project led by Bumblebee Conservation Trust,  is aiming to help these species by providing better connected and managed habitat on road verges. These wilder verges help to safeguard some of Kent’s rarest pollinators, such as the shrill carder bee, sea aster bee and fiery clearwing moth.

Bumblebee

Chris Gomersall/2020VISION

The poo police

For most of us, a big pile of poo is a pretty unappealing prospect. But for some creatures, there’s no finer sight than a massive mound of dung. By feasting on faeces, these flies, beetles and other waste-loving wildlife prevent poo from building up in pastures, improve soils and even help control pests.

Rollers - the beetles often seen on nature shows, rolling balls of poo across the African savannah - get most of the attention but aren’t found in the UK. Instead, our dung beetles are either tunnellers or dwellers. Tunnellers, like the mighty minotaur beetle, drag dung down into their burrows to feed their larvae, whereas dwellers can spend their entire lives within the confines of a dung pile.

The Maid of Kent Beetle is one such poo loving creature. With a hotspot in North Kent, this very scarce rove beetle is attracted to piles of dung where it feeds on the other insects lurking within.

Keep calm and carrion

If you’re not keen on the idea of piles of poo left littering the landscape, imagine how much worse things would be without the host of insects that feed on carrion. Animal carcasses could take months to rot without the swift action of maggots and beetles, like the bright, orange-splashed sexton beetles. Male and female sexton beetles work together to dig beneath the bodies of dead birds and small mammals, burying them to create a larder for their growing larvae.

Sexton beetle

2 -WildNet - Richard Burkmar

Feed the birds (and other wildlife)

Insects are a vital food source for many species, including bats, reptiles, amphibians, fish and birds. Great spotted woodpeckers hammer at rotting wood, prying beetle larvae from behind the bark with their long tongue. Blue tits collect caterpillars to feed their chicks and Daubenton's bats scoop aquatic insects from the surface of lakes and rivers. But falling insect numbers have already been linked to declines in some of the species that rely on them, like the spotted flycatcher, a bird whose UK population plummeted by 93% between 1967 and 2016. If our insects disappear, so will the countless other species that depend on them.

What about wasps?

Some insects have a bad reputation. Ants and wasps aren’t the most popular creatures, but they’re no less important than the more widely appreciated species like butterflies and dragonflies. Wasps are great natural pest control agents, hunting many of the insects that feed on our crops and garden plants. Ants, wasps and other burrowers aerate the soil, digging tunnels that help transport oxygen, water and nutrients to plant roots.

Wasp

Wasp, Vespula vulgaris, on Ivy flower, Hedera helix, Peak District - Paul Hobson

Insects in trouble

We’re facing a global biodiversity crisis, with many species declining at an alarming rate. Animals and plants that were once common are now scarce, and insects are no exception. Recent evidence suggests that insect abundance may have declined by 50% or more since 1970, but insect declines are not as well studied as those in larger animals.  

At Kent Wildlife Trust we have been surveying insects through our ‘Bugs Matter’ project to find out more about how insect numbers are changing in the county. The results in 2019 indicated that there were 50% fewer insects recorded in Kent since 2004.

Take part in the survey this year to help us understand this further:

Take Part

You can read more about our disappearing insects in Insect declines and why they matter

Read More Here

 

But it’s not too late. Insect populations can recover rapidly if given the chance and small actions can make a big difference. You can help in many ways, including letting some of your lawn grow into a meadow, planting pollinator friendly plants and reducing your use of pesticides. Find out more here:

Take Action for Insects