What Are You Thankful for? Insects on the List?

So you're seated at the Thanksgiving dinner table listening to what people are thankful for, what they treasure the most.

The three "F's" win hands-down: family, friends and food.

But "insects" should definitely added to that list. They are among the tiniest of critters on this planet, but think of their importance in our lives and in our ecosystems.

As British entomologist-zoologist George McGavin, author, academician, explorer and television presenter wrote in an article published in 2004 in The Guardian: "They are the most successful multi-cellular life form on the planet...Insects have endured for hundreds of millions of years. They have survived the numerous global upheavals and catastrophes that spelled the end for much greater and grander creatures and they will continue to be a major part of the Earth's fauna for many more millennia."

McGavin, an honorary research associate at both the Oxford University Museum of Natural History and the Oxford Department of Zoology, points out that insects are "the food of the world."

"Most of the higher animal species on Earth eat insect--they are the food of the world," he writes in his piece on Why I Love Insects. "All of the blue tit chicks in the British Isles alone consume 35bn caterpillars before they become adult. A single pipistrelle bat, the smallest bat species in the UK, has to eat between 2,000 and 3,000 insects most nights to stay alive."

McGavin also emphasizes the importance of pollinators and recyclers, that "we depend on bees for perhaps as much as a third of the food we eat....As recyclers, flies and beetles devour carcasses and clear prodigious quantities of dung every day."

We met George McGavin in July 2012 at a sunflower field in Winters. He and his crew were there to film a documentary on ultimate swarms, featuring Norm Gary, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis. Gary, an author, scientist and now a retired professional bee wrangler, clued him in on bee behavior.

Like many scientists, McGavin loves to share his enthusiasm for insects, something we all need to appreciate more and to support as much as we can.  For example, the Entomological Society of America launched a Chrysalis Fund to bring insect education into the classroom.  According to the website,  it's "supported by donors dedicated to the mission of enhancing insect education for K-12 students. Teachers and educators with creative ideas for insect-themed programs or projects are encouraged to apply for funding."  (On a side note, UC Davis distinguished professor Walter Leal donated his $1000 honorarium from the recent ESA Founders' Memorial Award Lecture to the Chrysalis Fund. See YouTube video.)

So, what are we thankful for? Family, friends and food, for sure.

And the list also includes...insects.