In this post Juliano Morimoto, author of recent publication ‘Addressing global challenges with unconventional insect ecosystem services: Why should humanity care about insect larvae?‘ answers some questions about his work and the all important –why should we care about insect larvae?

He has also written a plain language summary ‘Insect larvae: more than looks‘.

Case moth.

What was the inspiration for your article?

Ten years ago, when I started my academic journey to become a Biologist by attending University, I never thought I would fall in love with insects, let alone insect larvae. It was only during the second half of my PhD that it hit me: I love insects and more specifically, the tiny often worm-like larva that, despite relatively simple morphology, is of utmost significance to insects and humans as we know. During my postdocs in Australia, I met wonderful people who shared parts of their culture, parts that overlapped with my passion for insect larvae. I slowly understood the deepest relationship that humanity developed with insects and the importance of acknowledging those relationships for the uncertain future of our species. But it was unsettling that nobody else pieced together all this information. I grew apprehensive and needed to tell others about the amazing things larvae can do. That’s what inspired me to work during one of the most difficult periods of my career – a period of change and a career break – to write the article that answers the question: why should we care about insect larvae?

So, why should we care about insect larvae?

We have a love-and-hate relationship with insects. We love bees, love butterflies, hate wasps, hate flies. But when we think of insects, we picture the adult stage, never the larvae. That’s because larvae are less glamourous and can cause real aversion to humans (known as ‘vermiphobia’). This is overrated, though. Larvae are, in fact, amazing. This paper shows recent data from the literature to convince you. Firstly, the paper shows that larvae can be used as food for livestock and humans, which can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The paper then discusses that some larvae can degrade plastic or recycle organic waste to produce biofuel. And did you know that some larvae can kill you or save you? Lastly, the paper gifts you with a story from Aboriginal people of Australia who use the larvae of a moth as the comforting link between a father and his missing son. Larvae are one of many key allies to humanity’s sustainable future in culturally diverse societies.

How does your article inform future research?

The article provides a more holistic view of the range of benefits of our relationship with insects. It highlights that, if we are to create a sustainable and diverse society, we must recognise that every insect – whatever the life stage – matters. This not only informs future research but hopefully will influence policy concerning insect conservation.

Why did you choose People and Nature for your research?

People and Nature is a unique journal which encourages interdisciplinary thinking. My research shares not only what I know in terms of science, but also a part of who I am and what I love. I felt like People and Nature could accommodate both sides of this article: ‘the science and the scientist’.