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There are about one million described species of insects in the world and many more that have yet to be discovered and identified, with estimates ranging from 2.6-7.8 million species. Having evolved over hundreds of millions of years, insects have immense diversity and have adapted to virtually every terrestrial environment on the earth and every niche in these environments.
Some insects are barely the size of a pin-prick whilst others, like the goliath beetle, can be as big as the palm of your hand. Most insects co-exist comfortably with humans, and some even provide economic benefit, pollinating plants, providing honey, silk, lacquer and food, and eating other insects that attack crops.
A relatively small number of insect species are regarded as pests because of their negative impact on humans and the human environment. Some are parasitic on humans, transmit diseases both in wild areas and the human environment, others destroy agricultural and processed food products, or damage structures. Millions of people worldwide are affected by insect-borne diseases, such as malaria, Chagas disease, dengue fever, yellow fever and the recently emerged Zika virus.
The whole food chain, from farmer to consumer, and national economies lose billions a year due to insects eating and contaminating raw materials and processed products, on top of the economic impact of diseases on people at an individual and macroeconomic level.
Through understanding insects’ behaviour and the impact they have, and implementing prevention and eradication measures, great economic benefit can be gained and hundreds of millions of lives can be improved.