It's National Insect Week!

This National Insect Week, we're celebrating freshwater ecosystems and the insect species that inhabit them!

Every year, the Royal Entomological Society organises National Insect Week, supported by over 60 organisations with interests in the science, natural history and conservation of insects.

Photo credit: J Duckenfield


Insects are the most diverse group of animals in the world, they come in multiple forms – butterflies, flies, bugs and beetles, wasps and bees, dragonflies, and many more. Some people don’t like insects or are creeped out by creepy crawlies, but these tiny creatures are incredibly important for us and the environment.


Insects are key to healthy, thriving, and sustainable ecosystems. We all know how important bees are – without bees and other pollinators, our food production systems would collapse, and humanity would likely be plunged into famine. But what about the other mini beasts? And what can insects tell us about the health of a river system?


Why are insects important for rivers?

  • River insects are a vital part of the river food chain in freshwater habitats.

  • Where there are insects in rivers, fish, amphibians, birds, and other species can feed and thrive.

  • Insects help to regulate water quality by breaking down organic matter which enters our rivers.

  • As indicator species, river insects can also be used as a quick and accurate way of assessing water quality and river health because they are very sensitive to pollution.

  • Many plants and trees rely on insects to pollinate their flowers in order to reproduce

Ecosystems are complex, and where 50% or more of an ecosystem is made up of insects, the loss of these creepy crawlies could lead to disastrous ecosystem collapse.

Insects act as indicator species, with short lifespans, small body sizes, specific food requirements and very sensitive to changes in oxygen and chemical levels in the water, many insects are very intolerant to pollution and populations respond to pollution very quickly.


By taking samples and counting how many of each insect species are present we can see how healthy our rivers are. If the samples are taken regularly then the results can be used to track river health over time. Then, if there are sudden dips in insect numbers, we can often trace this back to a pollution incident somewhere on the river and use our knowledge to prevent further pollution incidents.


We hope you get to observe and enjoy some insects by your local river this week!


Photo credit: J Duckenfield


Find out more: https://www.insectweek.co.uk/

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