We are used to domesticated animals, such as cows, sheep, chickens—the list is long. And plants are commonly modified for human use. Ever wondered how humans use insects?
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10 Beneficial Insects Useful to Humans
Domesticated animals and plants are essential parts of human civilization. Most came from the very start of agricultural societies. Yet, despite the millions of species of insects, very few have been domesticated by people.
Humans use some beneficial insects to do farming tasks such as pollination and pest control. But there are some products or services that make humans breed, or care for, insects. Even so, only two types of insects are considered “domesticated.” So, what are some of the ways that insects are useful to humans?
Silkworms are the larvae or caterpillar of the domesticated silkmoth. The moth and larva depend on humans for habitat and reproduction. Domesticated silkmoths are no longer able to live on their own in the wild. Silkworms make threads of silk First domesticated in China, for a long time China and Southeast Asia kept strict seclusion of the silkworm industry in order to maintain a monopoly of the silk trade.
We build homes for their hives, look after their health, heat them, protect them. Although honeybees are not domesticated in the sense that silkworms are, bees are likely the first and oldest human-insect team. Bees make honey from plant nectar. Humans collect honey, mainly for eating. Some people also use honey as medicine. Honey is the main product that humans get from bees, but beeswax from the hive material is another useful product. And don't worry about bee stings, there are many natural home remedies for bee stings.
8. Cochineal beetles
Carmine is one of the oldest dyes or pigments used by humans. Carmine is red, a color derived from crushed cochineal beetles. These beetles feed mainly on cactus plants. They are encouraged to feed on fields of cacti plants and then collected for processing.
7. India Lac beetles
Another type of insect that gives a useful product is the lac beetle from India. The “lac” is the material that protects the insects from weather. It is found on certain scale insects Shellac is a wood finishing product made from the lac beetles.
Commercially Useful Insects
6. Ladybugs, Earth Worms, and Nematodes
Several kinds of insects are considered beneficial, especially to gardeners. Lady bugs are harvested and sold for the way they eat pest insects, such as aphids. Earth worms are “farmed” and “seeded” into gardens to act as soil looseners. One type of beneficial nematodes are also used by gardeners, although many other types of nematodes may be harmful to plants.
5. Leeches and Maggots
Leeches, historically, were used for bloodletting, a most-likely useless and potentially dangerous medical practice. However, the use of leeches is still current; there are some medical applications, such as the reattachment of body parts and reconstructive and plastic surgeries. "Surgical Maggots", larvae of the green bottle fly, also have some medical uses—they can clean out any dead tissue within a wound (called debridement) and disinfect. Maggots primarily feed on the necrotic (dead) cells or tissue of a patient without eating much living tissue.
4. Flesh-Eating Beetles
Flesh-eating Beetles eat all living soft tissues down to the bone. They are used by some natural history museums to clean animal skeletons. They are also used by taxidermists and, more rarely, hobby collectors of skulls and animal skeletons.
3. Nightcrawlers and Fishing Worms
Live worms are very popular and effective as bait for fishing. Nightcrawlers, large and red, are especially valued and are used in salt-water as well as fresh-water fishing.
Tarantulas are a species of large, hairy spiders. Most are not dangerous to humans and do not bite. They have become popular to keep as pets within the exotic pet trade.
From ancient times, crickets have been kept as pets in China. Usually, they are kept for their “songs,” the chirping. Cages, gourds, and ceramic containers are created for cricket homes, believed to bring out a better sound in the songs. It became an art to create elaborate cricket cages, containers, and individual cricket homes.
In the 12th century, Chinese people began to hold cricket fights. Crickets in many ways became a domesticated insect as cricketers perfected the art of selecting and breeding for the best qualities of fighting crickets. This practice lasted until the beginning of the 19th century. Bamboo cricket cages are still a contemporary art in China and elsewhere, but keeping crickets, as pets, is not a widespread practice.
As for insects, many peoples' personal experiences with them are negative; they see insects as pests. Gardeners and farmers think of beneficial insects as pollinators. Yet, there are a few insects that have been adopted into service, several that create useful products, and a few more that actually rate as pets. This is really quite a small number in light of the many millions of species of insects that there are across the world.
Insects remain fascinating to study—their form, behaviors, and reproductive strategies. Naturalists and biologists still have plenty to observe and learn. Read more about bees and their Honey as Medicine.
Did you enjoy this Simple10s article about domesticated insects? Read more about animals and humans in the Natural World.