In honor of World Population Day, established by the United Nations and recognized on July 11, we’ve been thinking about the number of insects populating the earth in comparison to the ever-increasing number of humans. With life expectancy more than doubling from 1800 to 2005, the human population has grown from 1 billion to more than 7 billion, increasing at a rate faster than one person per second.
But insects are the population masters. While the number of humans roaming the earth is an astonishingly large number to wrap your head around consider this: at any time, it is estimated that there are some 10 quintillion (10,000,000,000,000,000,000) individual insects alive. If that is enough to make your skin crawl, rest assured that the majority are living in the canopies of tropical forests. Insects exist on every continent on earth, including Antarctica, which aside from the occasional visiting scientist, won’t be housing humans anytime soon.
The majority of these insects are unnamed. Only about 900,000 species of insects are known and classified by science, leaving by some estimates up to 300 million that are not. The nearly unfathomable number of insects is mostly attributed to many factors such as their ability to adapt to the environment, ability to delay fertilization, and in many cases, a very short gestation period and lifespan.
With the number of insects out-weighing the number of humans so astonishingly, it sort of makes you wonder – who’s bugging who?