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Why are there so many insects? - Murry Gans

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If insects suddenly morphed into large beings and decided to wage war on us, there’s no doubt that humans would lose. There are an estimated 10 quintillion individual insects on earth, outnumbering humans by more than a billion to one. So what’s their secret to success? Murry Gans details the reasons behind insect abundance.

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Meet The Creators

  • Educator Murry Gans
  • Script Editor Emma Bryce
  • Director Esteban Valdez
  • Producer Emilce Diaz
  • Animator Emilce Diaz, Dariel Bencosme , Najja Porter
  • Artist Meike Groh
  • Narrator Addison Anderson

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Additional Resources for you to Explore
As successful as insects are, they evolved to live on land – not in the oceans. This gives us another way to see just how many insects there are on earth, so grab a scientific calculator. (If you need any help ask a math or science teacher - you will make their day!)

Here’s a question for you:

The total land area of Earth is approximately 149 million square kilometers (1.49 x 108 km2). If there are 10 quintillion insects on our planet, on average how many could be found in a 1 meter by 1 meter box?

Here is a little help for those of you not very familiar with the metric system.

A meter is 39.37 inches, or just a little bigger than a yard. A square meter would be an area 1 meter wide by 1 meter long – an area big enough to hold 9 school children.

A square kilometer is an area that is 1000 meters by 1000 meters or, 1,000,000 square meters (1 x 106 m). To convert to square meters, multiply 149 million times a million.

(1.49 x 108 ) X (1 x 106) = ______________ square meters

Now divide the number of insects, 10 quintillion (1 x 1019) by the number of square meters you got above and you will see how many insects, on average, could fit in that same box with you. Get ready for a little surprise.

(1 x 1019) ÷ _________ square meters = average number of insects per square meter.

What do you think? Amazing, isn’t it?

Some insects, such as ants and bees, are eusocial. Read: An Introduction to Eusociality to get an idea of exactly what it involves. They have a queen which is the only female that reproduces. The other females raise the young, forage for food, and protect the colony. Even though the reproductive female is called the queen, she does not give the workers guidance or commands. The population is essentially self-organizing. How is this possible? Also, what possible advantage could the female worker ants gain by giving up the ability to reproduce? Want more information? Visit North Carolina State University’s General Entomology 425 site.

Beetles are among the most successful of insects – about 40% of all insect species are beetles. The biologist J.B.S. Haldane is supposed to have commented that God seemed to have an inordinate fondness for beetles. Why might beetles be so successful? Read, “Why are there so many freaking beetles? Science may finally have the answer.” Perhaps it was the diet of the beetles that made them so successful? Read this New York Times article and find out.

Love entomology?Visit TED-Ed and search INSECTS to check out more lessons about all those organisms that just might be driving you “buggy!”

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animation lessons feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Murry Gans
  • Script Editor Emma Bryce
  • Director Esteban Valdez
  • Producer Emilce Diaz
  • Animator Emilce Diaz, Dariel Bencosme , Najja Porter
  • Artist Meike Groh
  • Narrator Addison Anderson

Share

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