Insect = bugs. And most people hate bugs. Why? They bite, sting, give us allergic reaction, suck our blood, transmit germs, some have phobias to certain insects, make nest, make little holes in your book, leave little sawdust under your drawer and hollow out your wooden beams. But there are reasons why they do this and they can be as defensive as any other beings if being attacked.
Why can’t they be appreciated? They are small, insignificant, hard to see with the naked eye, and nice to squish. Many will ask why conserve, as there are too many and insects can be very annoying. Many are not aware the role of insects is at the base or a solid foundation of the pyramid of life.
Many insects are beautiful but that will cost them their life as people collects them, dry and pin them up to make a profit out of their dead body.
So who likes insects? Entomologist (those who study them), other scientist (applied science), hobbyist, serious collectors, traders, photographers, nature guides, pest controllers (who can earn a living) and connoisseurs (nutritious).
Human culture are much connected or influenced by insects since thousands of years ago in reasons, beliefs, symbolisms, aesthetic, religion, philosophy, psychology, literature, language, medical and therapeutic value, science and technology, art, entertainment, and philosophy unmatched by any other group of animals on the planet.
Insects are very successful amongst all groups of organisms and most diverse and their survivability advantage is from their external skeleton, size, ability to fly, high reproduction, metamorphosis and adaptability.
In conservation, insects can be considered as the most neglected group of animals. Some charismatic insects may be protected from illegal trade like the Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing Butterfly, but not their habitat protection. The firefly’s habitat however is legally protected in Japan, so are the glow worms from New Zealand. Even the important ones like the wild honey bees are not protected and their numbers are reducing dramatically.
Insects plays a major role for life on Earth. They are cleaners, decomposers, food themselves, food producers, pollinators, pest controllers, pest themselves, amongst others, and humans use them for dyes, medicine, art, jewelry, food, tourism and even learn from them to make better products.
More studies are needed on insects in Malaysia especially since we are a highly diverse tropical country. The only protected insects are conveniently found in protected areas but not at a specific habitat outside these protected areas. The Sungai Selangor Fireflies Protected Area (Restricted Activities) may be the country’s first insect habitat protection. The other protected insect species are protected from illegal trade following the Red Data List from IUCN.
One of MNS insect conservation focus is on the fireflies. MNS has long been associated with fireflies since 1970, when a member ‘discovered’ the Sungai Selangor fireflies, where firefly watching became a popular member’s activity. The sight of several thousand fireflies twinkling along a riverbank is a magical experience, one that draws in tourists, both local and foreign. Malaysia is one of the few South-East Asian countries with fireflies that congregate on “display trees” along both sides of mangrove-lined rivers. The insects can even be found congregating up to 100m inland from the riverbank where they breed.
MNS helped set up the first local community firefly watching tour which made Sungai Selangor renowned worldwide. Under the Firefly and Habitat Conservation Initiative, MNS is documenting, surveying, researching, creating awareness and advocating for firefly habitats protection.
Entomophobia = scared of certain types of insects
Entomophagy = eating insect
Entophile = insect lover
Cultural entomology = study of the connection between human culture and insect.