Wondrium’s “Why Insects Matter” Explores Vital Invertebrates

from agriculture to religion, mysteries of insects uncovered

By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer

Insects may give some of us the willies, but their world is incredible. They perform important tasks around the globe and appear in both religion and artwork. A new Wondrium course uncovers their secret world.

Close up of insect on a leaf
Agriculture relies on the vital role of insects as pollinators of crops. Photo by Alexander-rd / Shutterstock

Most people think about the insect world as seldom as possible. However, not only are insects everywhere, but they also pollinate our flowers and food; recycle decomposed materials; and provide sustenance for other animals, plants, and people. Insects play roles in various religions, literature, and film. They even inspire our architecture.

Wondrium’s new course Why Insects Matter: Earth’s Most Essential Species turns over the huge rock in your backyard and sheds light on all kinds of insects. In an exclusive interview, Wondrium content developer Rahima Ullah recalled the most memorable experiences of working on the course and why its appeal extends beyond bug enthusiasts.

Tiny Creatures, Big Audiences

It would be easy to assume that insects have a specialized audience—a niche fan base that doesn’t get the heebie-jeebies from cockroaches or earwigs. On the contrary, the little six-legged creatures shape the lives of every human on Earth in one way or another.

“It’s a really relevant topic for all of us,” Ullah said. “Insects play this huge, valuable, and immense role in our world; they’re just a part of our ecosystem and they’re extremely important. Our instructor really brings that out: He gives us the science and the understanding of that and then he also explains, ‘What’s the relevance in our daily life with insects?'”

Supporting Ullah’s statement, lecture six in the series is titled “Pollinators We Cannot Live Without,” a title which is anything but sensationalism. The course’s presenter, Dr. Scott Solomon, Associate Teaching Professor at Rice University, launches directly into the topic. He states that out of the 94 most important crops grown on Earth, 75 of them are pollinated by insects, without whom we’d have no milk, coffee, chocolate, apples, tomatoes, or watermelon, just to name a few.

The sense of scope throughout the entire course, Ullah said, is immense.

“He’s talking about agriculture, evolution, ecology, biodiversity, human disease—but then he also does fun things like insects in art and film, and then also looking at the psychology of this fear that a lot of people have of insects,” Ullah said. She also mentioned that the course covers insects as predators, as food for people, how people collect insects, and several other topics.

A Bug’s Life

Despite working with so many courses in the past, Ullah said she learned many fascinating new things while working on Why Insects Matter.

“One of the things that was interesting to me was understanding biodiversity and the receding numbers of insects,” she said. “You know, driving to Florida 10 years ago, a road trip down the East Coast from Virginia, my windshield would be—you’d need to squeegee it at every gas station, but that’s not true anymore. A lot of times we think of insects as so small that we can’t necessarily tell, but something like that, for me, you do notice.”

Of course, many cultures around the world eat insects. Ullah said that one of the lectures specifically deals with insects as food for people, and Dr. Solomon brought various insect-based food products into the studio during filming for Wondrium staff to try. Some pictures of the event even made their way into the lecture.

Why Insects Matter: Earth’s Most Essential Species is now available to stream on Wondrium.

Edited by Angela Shoemaker, Wondrium Daily