What Would Happen If All Earth’s Insects Vanished, The Science Explorer

What Would Happen If All Earth’s Insects Vanished?

Spoiler alert: It’s not good.

A common reaction when people see a bug is, “Eww… gross,” or “Kill it with fire!” But have you ever thought about how important these little creatures are to the Earth, and the survival of the human race?

As it turns out, humans would be in big trouble if insects disappeared. Within 50 years, all life on Earth would end.

«If insects were to disappear, the world would fall apart — there’s no two ways about it,» said Goggy Davidowitz, a professor in the departments of entomology and ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona, in conversation with Live Science.Yes, there would no longer be those pesky mosquito bites, no flies constantly buzzing around your head, no wasp stings, and no more insect-spread diseases such as malaria, west nile, or dengue fever — which kill hundreds of thousands of people every year. Farmers would no longer need to use harsh pesticides to protect against insects. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, more than 500 million pounds of chemicals are used annually to fight against bug infestations.

That sounds pretty good right? Too bad most of us wouldn’t be able to reap the benefits… most of us would starve to death. Approximately 80 percent of all Earth plants are angiosperms, or flowering plants, that require pollination from either bees, butterflies or other pollinating insects. Sometimes the wind and animals are able to assist with pollination, but the majority is done by insects. Without these pollinators, most plant life on Earth would disappear.

SEE ALSO: Zombie Bees Encroaching on Eastern US

Between 50 and 90 percent of the human diet comes from flowering plants, since angiosperms include the grains wheat and rice, as well as fruits and vegetables. These food staples also make up the diets of the animals that people eat, including chickens, cows, pigs and most freshwater fish. «Most of our food is insect-dependent,» said Davidowitz. «If insects disappear, a lot of mammals and birds disappear, too, because if you don’t have insects pollinating, even those animals that don’t eat insects won’t have fruit and foliage to eat. It does have a domino effect.»

Have you ever thought it would be a good thing if dead trees, animal carcasses and human bodies did not decay as fast as they do now? Well that is exactly what would happen. Although there would still be bacteria and fungi, insects are also a huge part of the decomposing process; therefore, decomposition would take much longer. Just imagine piles and piles of dead things.

What else could go wrong?

There would no longer be silk or honey. If you have been following the news, we are seeing a massive decline in honeybees today — mainly because of pesticide exposure, climate change and habitat loss. It may not be that much of a stretch to imagine a world without these dedicated pollinators.

So the next time you feel the need to kill a bug hiding in one of the corners of your house, maybe do what I do — grab a cup and a piece of paper and take it outside. Not only are you saving the life of a fellow species we share this planet with, you are doing all of humankind an enormous favor.


How long does it take for roaches to die after exterminator visits?

Question: How long after an exterminator performs a service should it take for cockroaches to die off completely?

ANSWER: It depends on the size of the infestation, the treatment, and the formulations used. Some infestations are so severe that many follow-up visits are required. As the homeowner or tenant, it is imperative you follow the instruction from the Pest Specialist as this will expedite getting positive results from the treatment.

For cockroach infestations contact us. An Orkin Pest Specialist who is highly trained will develop a customized treatment plan that best fits your situation. This treatment can include the use of:

  • Cockroach baits
  • Insect growth regulators
  • Repellent and nonrepellent insecticides in cracks and crevices
  • Dusts in voids
  • Monitor cards to verify treatment effectiveness
  • Recommendations on sanitation to eliminate food, water, and shelter sources for cockroaches

Related Questions:

The Orkin Man used the information above to also answer the following questions submitted by Orkin.com users:

Question: How many treatments does it typically take before you are «cockroach free»?

Question: How long does it take to get rid of German cockroaches?

Question: I moved into a new apartment two weeks ago and I keep finding roaches at nighttime in my bedroom and kitchen. The place is completely clean. What can I use to get rid of them for good?

ANSWER: The length of time it takes to rid your home of a cockroach infestation depends largely upon the species and size of the infestation. Many over-the-counter products homeowners utilize often prove ineffective against a cockroach infestation. These pests are extremely adaptable and may even be resistant to some home extermination methods.

The most rapid and effective pest control methods are those administered by trained pest control professionals. There are several techniques and tools that can be employed or recommended by these professionals to help control cockroaches. One strategy is for the pest control professional to partner with the homeowner to reduce cockroach attractants. Sources like pet food dishes, drains, dishwashers, trash cans, etc. should be maintained, cleaned and/or stored properly. Another step is to determine the source or entry point for the cockroaches.

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Some cockroaches, like the German cockroach, are primarily carried into the home. Homeowners should be careful to inspect items such as used furniture or appliances for cockroaches before bringing them home. Outdoor cockroaches may invade under doors and through open windows. Homeowners and the pest control professionals should collaborate to seal up the home as much as possible. Pest control professionals also can employ traps such as glue boards in areas where cockroaches may travel or hide. Yet another tool can be proper applications of products such as baits and residuals to cracks/crevices, harborage areas and the exterior of the home. The actual plan and time to help control cockroaches will vary by home and situation.

Our integrated A.I.M. protection process works to assess your home, implement solutions, and monitor any pest problems you may face. Call Orkin today to schedule a home inspection and receive a customized treatment plan from your local Orkin Man.

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Does Vacuuming Kill Bugs & Spiders?

Spiders and bugs are always on the move looking for food, shelter and a place to nest. Sometimes the insect and arachnid worlds collide with that of humans. When it does, shrieks of terror often arise at the sight of one of these creepy crawlers traveling across the floor. If squishing the bugs and spiders with the heel of a shoe is unappetizing, vacuuming is the next best thing.

Suck and Suffocate

While it seems that the sucking action of the vacuum is enough to kill spiders and bugs, this is not always the case. Fragile spiders and bugs that lack a hard exoskeleton often succumb to the vacuum; critters that survive the suction process are taken care of inside the vacuum bag. The density of the dirt, dust and hair inside the vacuum bag suffocates whatever live creatures it sucks up.

Vacuum Type Matters

The type of vacuum matters when it comes to killing bugs and spiders. A vacuum that sucks its contents directly into a bag is more effective than one that sucks everything into a filtered canister. A quick check to ensure the proper attachment of the bag before vacuuming increases the likelihood that the critters die inside. Sucking up a small amount of talcum powder before and after vacuuming also assists in the suffocation of the bugs and spiders.

Throw it Away

The immediate disposal of the vacuum bag after vacuuming ensures that what is inside the bag stays there. Although it is unlikely, a few critters sometimes survive the sucking and suffocation ordeal. Detaching the vacuum bag and placing it into a plastic garbage bag traps any bugs or spiders that try to escape. Sealing the bag tightly and disposing of it in an outside trash bin secures a death sentence.

Final Thoughts

It is reasonable not to want bugs and spiders in the home, workplace or anywhere that a surprise encounter is likely to occur. Vacuuming up these invaders helps kill those that are within view, but does nothing for those hiding in cracks, crevices and shoes inside the closet. To help control the bug and spider population inside the home, vacuum up visible webs and spider eggs. Keeping the home clean and clutter free also helps.


How long does alcohol stay in your blood?

On average, it takes about 1 hour for your body to break down 1 unit of alcohol. However, this can vary, depending on:

  • your weight
  • whether you’re male or female
  • your age
  • how quickly or slowly your body turns food into energy (your metabolism)
  • how much food you have eaten
  • the type and strength of the alcohol
  • whether you’re taking medication and, if so, what type

It can also take longer if your liver isn’t working normally.

How much is 1 unit of alcohol?

1 unit of alcohol is equivalent to 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol. There are roughly:

  • 2.1 units in a standard glass (175ml) of average-strength wine (12%)
  • 3 units in a large glass (250ml) of average-strength wine (12%)
  • 2 units in a pint of low-strength lager, beer or cider (3.6%)
  • 3 units in a pint of higher-strength lager, beer or cider (5.2%)
  • 1 unit in a single measure of spirits (25ml)

Adding up your units

If you drink a large (250ml) glass of wine, your body takes about 3 hours to break down the alcohol.

If you drink 1 pint of beer, your body takes about 2 hours to break it down, 1 pint of strong lager is equivalent to 3 units, so this will take longer.

However, this time can vary, depending on the factors mentioned above.

If you have a few drinks during a night out, it can take many hours for the alcohol to leave your body. The alcohol could still be in your blood the next day.

This means that if you drive the day after an evening of drinking, you could be over the legal alcohol limit. For more information, see How much alcohol can I drink before driving?

Know your units

To reduce the risk of harming your health if you drink most weeks:

  • men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week
  • spread your drinking over 3 days or more if you drink as much as 14 units a week
  • it’s a good idea to have several alcohol-free days each week

Further information

Page last reviewed: 26 July 2018
Next review due: 26 July 2021


What Happens to Pests During the Winter?

Overview of winter survival strategies of insects

When the cold weather rolls in, bears go into hibernation, birds migrate south and we, as humans, layer up and relax by the fire to stay warm throughout the winter months. But, what happens to pests like ants, mosquitoes and termites? Many people assume they just die off, but the truth is that these and other insects often devise strategies to make it through the winter. Learn more about how specific pests survive the harsh elements below.

It’s not all that often you see an army of ants marching across the kitchen counter in the dead of winter. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t nearby. Ants are very successful at overwintering in the great outdoors, including our own yards. During the fall months, they indulge in vast amounts of food with the goal of putting on fat to survive for weeks on end without eating. As the winter chill arrives, their body temperature – and productivity – significantly decreases, so they seal up their colony and hunker down in deep soil or under rocks until spring has sprung. Once the temperature rises, ants will emerge from their overwintering sites, full of energy and ready to crash the next backyard barbecue.

See also:  FAQ – Grasshopper

Related News Bed Bugs in Summer

Bed Bugs

Bed bugs can withstand temperatures from nearly freezing to 122 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes controlling them extremely difficult. However, they often succumb after a few days of exposure to temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. The bad news is our homes provide the perfect habitat for bed bugs to survive during the winter months.


Cockroaches have been around for millions of years, evolving into some of the most adaptable creatures in the world. But, are they able to survive the cold weather? Generally speaking, most types of cockroaches can survive year-round, as long as they have easy access to a warm, moist environment. The German cockroach, for example, prefers an indoor humid habitat close to food and moisture sources. As such, this species often makes itself quite comfortable in residential kitchens and bathrooms, especially during the winter months. The American cockroach, on the other hand, will live outdoors in warmer climates. Once the temperature dips, this type of cockroach will mass migrate into homes or larger commercial buildings such as restaurants, grocery stores, food processing plants and hospitals.


Encountering mosquitoes – and those itchy, red mosquito bites – is inevitable when spending time outdoors during the summer months. But, you might be surprised to find out that mosquitoes don’t fall away when Old Man Winter moves in. Contrary to popular belief, these biting insects overwinter, or hibernate, in protected places like hollow logs. As the weather conditions improve, female mosquitoes awaken and seek out a blood source to feed and begin developing eggs. Watch this video to find out what happens to mosquito larvae, too.


What happens to termites during the winter is heavily influenced by the specific species and the climate in which they live. In colder climates, subterranean termites will dig deeper into the soil – below the frost line – to stay warm. Other species like drywood termites will seek out dry wood for shelter. After the last freeze, typically in the springtime when the temperature reaches about 70 degrees Fahrenheit, young male and female termite swarmers emerge from their nests to find a mate and new nest location, which oftentimes can be inside our homes. In warmer climates or heated homes, where the temperature is controlled, termites can be active year-round.

Now that you know many common household pests are able to survive the winter season, it’s important to take the necessary steps to pest-proof the home. Click here to find out what renowned home improvement expert, Bob Vila, says you can do to help defend the home against pests this winter.

Can Pests Transmit Coronavirus?

Now that winter has passed, it’s important to note that coronavirus is not spread by vector pests.

Watch Out for Ticks

Here are the most common tick species in the U.S. and the threats each one poses.

Bug Barometer: Spring & Summer 2020

Warm, wet weather allowed pest populations to spike early and will help them thrive throughout the spring and summer. Check out the pest forecast for your region.

Copyright ©2020 National Pest Management Association

Copyright ©2020
National Pest Management Association


6 Simple Ways to Get Rid of Psocids or Book Lice

Illustration: © The Spruce, 2018

Psocids (Psocoptera), or booklice, are very common in new houses. This is because the environment is relatively humid, and these bugs do well in humid conditions. They likely came in on construction materials while the house was being built, and simply stayed. They can feed on microscopic mold that is growing in the humid areas they are in. But, you will be happy to know that they don’t bite, sting, or bother people or pets. Also, «booklice» is actually an inappropriate name for these bugs, because they’re not lice, and they don’t live in books!

Psocid presence is actually the most common pest question that comes from people who have just moved into a new house. Although the tiny bugs can be an annoyance, they really are no more than that and eventually, the humidity in the new house will drop and these small insects will not survive. So, you really don’t need to do anything besides living in the house.

But if they don’t die off soon enough on their own, you can turn up the heat in the rooms that have the problem. With about four hours of increased temperature/decreased humidity, the psocids will be gone—as high temperatures and low humidity will dry out and kill the psocids and also help to reduce the growth of the molds on which they survive.

Psocid/Book Lice Control

New houses are not the only places that have problems with psocids, however. The tiny bugs can live outdoors on bark feeding on mosses and lichens and in grass, leaves and damp wood.

Because they are so tiny, it’s impractical to try to prevent their entry into the home (beyond standard exclusion practices that can help keep out pests of all kinds), so it’s important to make your home as unattractive to these tiny bugs as possible. That is primarily by reducing or eliminating the moisture in which they thrive and the micro-molds on which they feed.

To prevent or control a psocid problem, you can:

  1. Reduce their food supply by cleaning with enzymes and/or borax, then keeping the areas clean and free of molds and mildew.
  2. Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner in the infested or potentially infestation areas to reduce moisture to below 50%. Using fans can also help to increase the air flow.
  3. Dispose of all moldy articles.
  4. Reducing the temperature to below freezing for one hour can also kill off the psocids, but this would be impractical for a home, though it could be viable for infested items … particularly for those who live in the Northern climates where an article could be placed outdoors when the temperatures drop below freezing.
  5. Talcum powder, diatomaceous earth or boric acid can be dusted in non-food area cracks and crevices, crawl spaces and other areas away from children and pets, to help dry out the area.
  6. Commercial products that help to control mold and fungi will also help keep the areas clean and maintain control of mold-feeding pests.
See also:  How can I treat a bedbug infestation?

With thanks for the information from Bill Robinson and Stephen Tvedten.


Insects survive the winter through a trick right out of science fiction

BI Answers: Where do insects go in the winter?

In the summer, when the air is sticky and hot, insects are everywhere: circling your fruit bowl, marching across your picnic, buzzing in your ear, and sometimes — the worst of times — flying directly into your mouth.

But when temperatures drop, icicles form, and parkas come out of storage, the bugs seem to vanish completely from the chilliest corners of the world — until months later, like some kind of magic trick. they reappear, as if they’d been there all along.

Where did they go?

To find out, we talked to someone who has spent much of his research career pondering this very question: Brent Sinclair, the director of the Insect Low Temperature Biology Lab at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, where he is also an associate professor.

One reason most people are mystified by the fate of insects in the winter is because there is not a simple answer. Some survive as eggs, larvae, or pupae, while others make it through the winter as fully-grown adults.

In general though, there are three distinct survival strategies that get insects — and related critters, like spiders — through the winter. One of them (the last on our list!) seems strange enough to be science fiction.

1. Avoid the cold

Some, like butterflies and dragonflies, migrate much like songbirds do, heading south en masse as soon as the cold sets in. (Researchers have actually attached tiny radio transmitters to dragonflies to track these migration patterns.)

North American monarch butterflies, the most famous migrating insects, make a long and somewhat miraculous journey to central Mexico each winter. (Swallowtail butterflies do no such thing, sticking out the winter safely encased as a chrysalis instead.)

For other insects, avoiding sub-zero temperatures means a journey of inches, not miles. Many aquatic insects wait out the winter at the bottoms of ponds, where they can remain relatively comfortable even when the surface freezes, Sinclair explains. Others do the same in the soil, burrowing deep below the frost.

Different types of mosquitoes have different winter survival strategies, but some are able to survive cold temperatures by hiding out in sheltered places like «inside the envelope of a house or under a bridge,» Sinclair says, where they lay in wait in a state called «quiescence.» Their next meal won’t come till springtime.

2. Carry on as usual

«If you were to put a little trap underneath the snow, you would find some small primitive insects,» Sinclair tells us. Some crawl within warm pockets carved out by grass and leaves, while others survive on the surface.

Mites, springtails (called «snow fleas,» though they are technically not insects), and certain spiders (also not technically insects, of course) can all appear as unassuming black dots on the snow. But don’t be fooled: they’re very much alive.

3. Freeze!

It’s called diapause: a dormant, semi-frozen state some insects enter until they thaw out in the spring and crawl off as if nothing had happened. (Despite our fantasies of full-body cryogenics, humans definitely can’t do that yet — though some mosquitoes pull off something a lot like it.)

The emerald ash borer, a tree-killing invasive species in North America, enters diapause in the winter, which (unfortunately for the northern regions it’s infested) means it can survive freezing temperatures. In this state of suspended animation, «they don’t do anything,» Sinclair says, «They don’t develop. They just sit under the bark of trees where they’ve been feeding all summer.»

The environmentally damaging creatures are able to stay unfrozen and alive in the cold because a high concentration of their blood is made up of something called glycerol, which acts as an antifreeze.

Woolly bear caterpillars, meanwhile, actually freeze into tiny statues but still live through the winter. «Ice forms inside their bodies — you tap them and they’re solid,» Sinclair explains. «It’s an amazing trick.» They can survive, Sinclair has found in his lab, at temperatures well below anything found on Earth. A lot of body processes shut down so they aren’t injured in the meantime. (Goldenrod gall flies perform a similar stunt.)

The undead invasion

Many insects actually do die in the winter, leaving nothing but eggs behind. That means they are replaced by an entirely new generation in the spring.

«You know the crickets that you hear singing in the fall? Those adults that are singing are all going to die in the winter,» Sinclair explains. «They lay eggs in the soil, and those hatch in the spring.»

One problem with our warming winters — yes, parts of the US are experiencing a cold snap, but nationally it’s one of the warmest winters ever recorded — is that insects that are supposed to die off don’t, and those that normally can’t survive in the coldest areas are moving in and setting up shop.

«If you have more and more warm winters, you can get invasive species moving further up and into cold areas,» Sinclair says. And all that’s stopping non-invasive species, like the mountain pine beetle, «from eating eastern North America,» is the blistering cold of the Rockies — something we may not be able to rely on for long.

«Elevated temperatures at high elevations across western North America have allowed mountain pine beetle populations to develop in a single year in areas where two or more years were previously required,» noted a report from the US Forest Service.

Still a bit of mystery

Scientists can detail many of the different ways insects make it through the winter, but there’s a lot we still don’t understand.

The creatures that freeze or enter diapause and then spring back to life are especially mysterious. They’re also some of the most intriguing insects, since while humans have found ways to freeze eggs and sperm, we are still trying to figure out if there is a way to freeze and preserve whole tissues and organs without damaging them.

On that measure, the insects have us beat.

«For over 200 years, we’ve known that some insects can survive freezing,» says Sinclair. «But we still don’t know what the magic bullet is that lets them do that.»


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