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Most have been grossed out by insects a bit too close for comfort, but these bugs play important roles in the environment. Scientists have identified and named over 900,000 different species, with some researchers suggesting that up to 30 million or more species have yet to be discovered. Of the species we know of, scientists estimate there are about 10 quintillion (18 zeroes) insects buzzing about the Earth right now. And while not all have a glamorous purpose (bed bugs and mosquitoes, for example), many perform essential functions in society. About one-third of our food supply is supported through pollination, in which bees and other pollinators do diligent work. Caterpillars known as silkworms spin their saliva into cocoons, which can then be untangled and woven into expensive silk clothing. Ladybugs consume plant-destroying aphids that attack crops, trees and other natural greenery.
Like all creatures, insects can be both predator and prey. Though often misunderstood, even the enemies make a huge impact: spiders, cockroaches and even dung beetles help humans and other species thrive when they're not being squished. Take a look at this playlist to learn more about bugs—and why it's important to protect them.