Thinking back, do you remember what the adults of your childhood taught you about bugs? Were you raised to fear them? Kill them upon sight? What was the message you received about insects?
For many of us, we were taught to stay away from the tiny, creepy, crawly beings of the world. Spiders, bees, wasps, ants, beetles, mosquitos and flies are all a part of a class of animals on Earth that most city folk see as a nuisance, as pests and some of the only beings ok to kill. Children are quickly redirected from their natural curiosity with bugs and taught that they are dangerous, yucky and unwanted.
Of course, these lessons come from eons of experiences humans have had with bugs. These tiny creatures can be very dangerous, can spread disease, destroy structures and are capable of killing grown ups and children alike. The message to steer clear of the smallest ones around is built into our cultures due to the mayhem they can and have caused for many generations of our ancestors and are still causing today. Malaria, spread mainly by mosquitos, is said to be the number one killer of all time, taking billions of lives over recent centuries.
Bugs, obviously, are not always our friends. Yet they are a part of our massive ecosystem and are equally as significant as every other living creature on Earth, if not quite a bit more. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that "Approximately 80 percent of all flowering plant species are specialized for pollination by animals, mostly insects" (https://www.fao.org/pollination/en/) and while these estimates are high, human studies will never know the complete picture of how life happens on Earth.
From our somewhat limited observation, we can conclude that while bugs can be deadly, they also are life-bringers whom actually work in tandem with Mother Earth's natural system of checks and balances.
Insects in the (food) forest - the need of these magical beings in self-sustaining ecosystems
When was the last time you visited a forest?
Think back to what it was like when walking along the carved out pathways of the seemingly deserted woodlands. Can you remember the smells? The sounds? The ways the trees intermingled and how pieces of their trunks, stems, and leaves covered the forest floor? What about the fungal communities? Did you see mushrooms, mold or slime? It is imperative that those of us raised in the city spend some time in the massive, self-sustaining ecosystems that we call forests.
The sensory experiences of nature are necessary for a holistic viewpoint of how things work together and when living on concrete, we can easily be disconnected from this most basic reality of life on Earth.
Though when we live in alignment with the lessons of the forest, we will not only be a "better" human because of this, we can actually create a "better" society based on the perpetual qualities of Mother Nature.
Forests are magical places, full of living beings that all grow in particular niches, where they survive due to their individual characteristics. Plants that need a lot of sun, grow up tall beyond the canopy of trees or are the canopy of trees. Plants that are climbers, vine up these tall trees. Animals that need to stay off the forest floor, fly, swing or jump from these vines or branches and thrive in the top layers of the forest. The ground is of coursed covered with plants, animals, insects and fungi that require shade and usually more moisture to be alive.
Us city folk can actually recreate our own perfectly crafted forests in our parks and even in our back (and front) yards! A food forest (garden) is an edible landscape that follows the enduring patterns of survival that the natural forests have mastered over time. When we select native plants that fulfill particular niches, like trees that need lots of sun (i.e. pecan, almond, moringa, apple, peach) for the canopy, vines that need trees to climb (i.e. grapes, beans/peas, passionflower, kiwi) and bushes/ground covers that need protection from the blazing sun (i.e blueberries, strawberries, elderberries, currants, oregano, edible greens), we end up "copying" the blueprint of the Earth and over time, creating a self-sustaining food system, based off of the design of the forest.
This is known as food forestry and is one of the only true solutions to the growing dilemma of food scarcity, biodiversity in our food systems, over-worked agricultural land, desertification and even general climate change.
Though, another super important part of the food forest (and all forests), are the tiny, nearly unseen (yet often heard) population of insects. Our buggy friends (yes, friends, the bond is mutual whether most of us can sense this or not) are a MAJOR part of the sustainability of any natural ecosystem.
As mentioned above, bugs are the primary pollinators of all flowering plants on Earth, and we're not just talking bees either. Ants, flies, moths and even wasps all help pollinate the waiting flowers of forests and other natural landscapes. They are collectively responsible for spreading the genetic information of the fruiting plants around, acting as co-creators of life in the forest.
Insects are frequency beings and use their vibrations to detect the lively nectar of flowers, secure a method to reach it and when devouring the plants sweetness, are covered pollen,the fertile seeds of the plants life. Moving around from flower to flower, the pollen travels too and fertilization takes place as flowers have both male (stamen, where the pollen comes from) and female (pistil, where the ovary is found) parts.
This work of insects can also be seen corresponding with the astrological sign of Gemini. Gemini is the final Zodiac sign of spring, found right after all the flowers bloom and are ready to set seed. The energy of Gemini is associated to the communicative planet Mercury and is known for spreading information through voice, text and media. When we look at the garden from an astrological perspective, we will find each sign of the Zodiac in the forest. During each season and in each portion of the season (the first, second and third month), we find the individual traits of the astrological wheel aka The Zodiac.
These tiny creatures also help with the decomposition of the decaying life, both plant and animal, and literally breakdown the physical bodies of old life, making these minerals available for the plants to absorb to continue their growth cycles. Insects waste (aka poop) is a natural part of healthy soil, helping to add back vital nutrients needed for a healthy ecosystem.
Even in their death, insects are used to build the soil needed for new life by sometimes hosting particular fungi (the parent of mushrooms) and giving it a home to sprout its fruit from, which we call mushrooms. Mushrooms and the mycelium they grow from, are an integral part of the regenerative properties of the forest floor. They can literally dissolve anything that is created (including plastic), releasing the building blocks of life back into the dirt.
Mycelium can also be seen through the sign of Gemini, as it is similar to the neural network of the brain. Mycelium is the white, stringy being that lives in fertile soil. If you've ever dug into moist mulch or dark black garden dirt, you have probably seen the thin filaments and might have mistaken them as an unidentifiable object. Mushrooms grow from these white strings and they themselves are responsible for interconnecting the underground community by growing through plants and trees roots, sharing vital nutrients, oxygen and water with everyone in the soil below. They use electrical impulses (vibrations of light energy) to pass coded information throughout the forest floor. Studies (recent scientific ones and ancient ancestral ones) show that stress, disease and maybe even fire warnings are shared through what is called the "wood-wide network" underground. All things on Earth are interconnected and are capable of sharing the vastness of information, both in the open sky and in the living ground.
From above, insects help make babies, though from below, they help keep the parent plant nourished through mineral rich soil, prepare the ground for the soon to be visiting seed through their own life cycles and even support the growth of the vital underground neural network of roots and mycelium. The age old adage, as above, so below (which is actually the ancient hermetic observation of how the Earth and Sky work in unison), is clearly witnessed in the food forest and notably so through the insects that occupy this space.
Ready for some more insect magic?
While many cultures have insect wariness built into their customs, there have been some that have properly revered these precious creatures for the assistance they share with us all. These cultures have come to know the intimate and magical essence of insects, choosing to honor them for their rather unique abilities.
Did you know that insects can sense the UV light of stars and use this light to navigate at night?
That's right! Insects like moths and beetles are highly sensitive organisms that are built to survive on Earth. Ancient Egyptians praised the Black Scarab Beetle due to its natural skill of using the light of the Milky Way for night travel. This insect was so significant to this foundational culture (our modern societies are literally based on numerous aspects of the ancestral Egyptians), that the beetle was a part of their royal garments, placed on the tombs of Pharaohs and was a normal choice of jewelry by the elite families of those days.
While the Bible does mention insects in several books, they are generally spoke of as pests, as a sign of pestilence and an example of the wrath of God (though there are scriptures that also honor the wisdom of ants and mention some insects good to eat). Other ancient religious texts though, honor their local bug friends, for instance the Quran dedicates two entire chapters to both the ant and the bee, honoring the hard-working, communal creatures and their true impact on life in the ancient world. The Prophet Sulaiman (King Solomon) was known to have the ability to speak to animals and insects and used the wisdom attained to guide his people with compassion and respect for the smallest living things on Earth. The often unseen, forgotten or unloved beings on Earth (another example, plants we know as "weeds") are often the strongest, hardest working creatures that deserve unyielding respect and reverence.
These majestic life forms use the cues of the environment to mate, navigate, find food and shelter too. They can tune into the light of the sun, stars and even the moon to travel the cardinal directions. They are attracted to both heat and cold for food and water. Bugs are literally walking, flying, crawling sensory beings that are in full alignment with their home, Earth. The tiniest are often the mightiest and with careful yet simple observation, we can come to see these truths of life on Earth. (The meek will inherit the Earth, another traditional saying that insects seem to confirm just by being alive.)
The sensory system is as an energetic exchange way that uses the wavelengths of light, sound and the unseen, to communicate with the environment. Every living being (including the Earth itself) has some sort of sensory system and together we can all communicate with one another. Actually, whether we know it or not, we all are communicating with one another. There is not escaping the primary way of living on Earth; relating and communication. Modern humans are mostly no longer aware of their sensory abilities and are depending on manmade technology to learn of their place in the world. Though, the birthed bodies of life (and the Earth, the sun, the moon, and the stars as well) have the most sophisticated technology known, our own "discoveries" merely replications of the natural creation of existence.
It is the hope of the author that the coming generations rediscover the intimate and significant relationship of all of the life on Earth most especially the tinniest and often overlooked beings we call insects.
They tell a perspective of time that can only be know from the seemingly insignificant space of the smallest parts of things, a story that retells the magic of it all.
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