you think about ants, flies, and food, what do you picture? Maybe the
last time you had a picnic or backyard cookout and were annoyed by
uninvited guests of the buzzing or marching variety? Still, these
insects and others are some of the most dedicated workers,
recyclers, and street cleaners around, and without them we would be up
to our knees in “ick.”
One creature’s waste is another creature’s dinner.
Insects are animals, and like other animals they have varied diets and can be herbivores, carnivores, omnivores, scavengers, and even decomposers. Many decomposer insects make up these important cleanup crews:
- Cleaning up dead/dying plant tissues (ex. fallen trees and leaves, apple cores)
- Cleaning up dead animal tissues (also called “carrion”)
- Cleaning up feces/poop from other animals
Perhaps eating rotting fruit, deceased possums or poop doesn’t sound so appetizing to you? All the more reason to celebrate the insects who turn this waste into nutrients for growing the fresh vegetables, flowers, and forests we enjoy.
Watch this short, fun video which illustrates how decomposers fit into the food chain and turn "trash" into energy.
"Pests" in the City: Tiny Diners Have a Big Impact
Meet a beautiful North American beetle who eats bison poop (4-minute video from National Geographic).
How Do Insects Eat? A lesson for Classrooms and Learners
Insects are fascinating creatures! And while every species is inherently valuable to our ecosystem, some insects can cause significant damage to plants and trees. In our free, downloadable 30-minute lesson, “How Do Insects Eat?” (best for grades 2–3) learners explore the various kinds of mouthparts different insects have, a big clue to what and how they eat. Get the lesson here, which can be adapted to virtual or classroom learning and includes extensions and more resources.
Written by: Angel Horne