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Matter of small lives; role of insects in nature - 1

A journey to 'A Land Lost In Nature And Time' ... Bhutan. 70% of the country is rich in forest cover. It was not only amazing to see the greenery but also the small lives surrounding us, the insect lives. They amused us hiding and seeking behind the plants, flowers, light...

Insect life encountered during Bhutan travel
Insect life, Bhutan

Insects, these small lives are found nearly in every habitat. There are millions of them in this world, and many of them are still unknown to us. The existence of these small lives is important to the functioning of our ecosystem. Insects create the biological foundation for all terrestrial ecosystems. They cycle nutrients, pollinate plants, disperse seeds, maintain soil structure and fertility, control populations of other organisms, and provide a major food source for other life. They form the basal part of the food pyramid and impact our agricultural ecosystems as well as human health.

To understand the lives and roles of each insect would take us a decade. Though let us understand a few of the roles of insects.

Small tortoise shell butterfly

Butterflies are one of the common pollinators in our garden. They are attracted by the bright color flowers and fragrance. They also serve as a food source and an indicator of the ecosystem's well being. A garden that attracts butterflies also bring in native bees and birds, increasing diversity in the garden. There are also plant specific butterflies whose lives depend upon the richness of the host plants.

Moths are nocturnal cousins of butterflies. They are the night pollinators responsible for night flowering plants. They follow the light of moon for navigation and are often distracted by artificial lights. Most of them prefer, dark, cool weather and thus moths are a common sight in Bhutan. Also, a key species for the health of forest ecosystem.


Life cycle stages of insects that may be a small part of time also matters in the functioning of ecosystem. Caterpillars are larval stages of butterflies or moths. By chewing and digesting leaves, caterpillars cycle nutrients and energy through the ecosystem, making valuable sources of nutrition available to other plants and living organisms.


Wild honey bees play a major role in pollination of forest species affecting cross pollination and maintenance of variability within species. Wild honey is also a food source for humans and many wild animals. This can help sustain the natural processed of pollination among forest species and maintain diversity in plants conventionally propagated through seeds.


Dragonflies are one of the most widely recognized insects. They need clean aquatic systems and are hence a good indicator of health of local aquatic systems. Their abundance keep a check on the mosquito population.


Spiders can be called as our friends. Why? They are the most significant insect predators, regulating insect populations and preventing the spread of disease. They provide important food for birds and other small animals as well.

Researchers have noticed that because of climate change and porous borders, exotic plant species have replaced the native vegetation in Bhutan's southern foothills bordering India. As Bhutan warms, these invasive species will probably climb the slopes and have an impact on the crops and way of life. While there is some understanding about invasive species of plants, nothing is known about invasive species of invertebrates other than recent pest outbreaks of giant African land snails and army worms.

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