- The Washington Times - Friday, March 31, 2006

ITHACA, N.Y. (AP) — Think twice before you swat a fly or squash a bug: A new study says insects contribute more than $57 billion a year to the U.S. economy.

And that is a conservative estimate, said John Losey, a Cornell University associate professor of entomology who conducted the study, published in the current issue of the journal BioScience.

“Most insects tirelessly perform functions that improve our environment and lives in ways that scientists are only beginning to understand,” said Mr. Losey, who wrote the study with Mace Vaughan of the Portland, Ore.-based Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

The study focused on four services that bugs provide, and what the cost would be if the insects were gone:

• Nutrition for wildlife. The researchers looked at how much is spent annually on observing or hunting wildlife, and how much these animals depend on insects for food. Value: $50 billion.

• Pest control. Insects often prey on other insects. The researchers looked at the amount of damage done by pests, and the losses that would result if their predators disappeared. Value: $4.5 billion.

• Pollination. The researchers looked at the value of crops that are insect-pollinated (not including crops pollinated by domesticated honeybees). Value: $3 billion.

• Dung burial. If not for dung beetles, manure on grazing land would attract more flies and parasites that farmers would have to control. Also, dung beetles help return nutrients to the soil. Value: $380 million.

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