Carla Ortuño Güendell

Is half Spanish half Costa Rican. She has lived in 12 different countries and enjoys embracing cultures’ little eccentricities. This unique experience has taught her that no matter where we come from, we all share similar aspirations and responsibilities in life. We aspire to find happiness, love and to have good health. Our main duty is to respect others and take care of our planet.

She has dedicated her career to working in the development and humanitarian field – gaining experience from three continents in different areas: health, education, human rights, environment and infrastructure. She studied translation and international relations and enjoys both learning and teaching languages. She speaks fluent Spanish, English, French and Chinese and is currently studying Polish.

Carla is an intercultural communicator and linguist who is passionate about finding the things that bring us happiness, love and balance in life. She loves staying active, practicing sports and is also treading her own path towards a zero waste and minimalist lifestyle.

Insects around the world provide the foundation for a healthy ecological system. With more than three-quarters of the world’s crops depending on insect pollination, we owe these little creatures a lot of respect and protection. But it seems like we are doing quite the opposite…

Insects are more than annoying creatures that ruin picnics. In fact, they provide most of the food you bring to your picnics. Instead of getting rid of them, we should be thanking and learning more about them.

Pollination, the transfer of pollen from the male parts of a flower to the female parts of a flower of the same species, is important to grow crops, preserve plant communities and guarantee the production of seeds. Pollinators (animals and bugs) and pollinated (plants) keep our world humming and remind us of how mysteriously beautiful nature can be:

Take bees as an example – the most commonly-known pollinators. They have hairy legs that groom the pollen into little pockets on their legs and body and carry the pollen to other plants, often of the same species. In return, plants reward them with sweet nectar.

Unlike bees, butterflies don’t carry the pollen all over their bodies, the pollen clings to their legs instead. Butterflies can see the colour red and usually pick wide-open flowers for their daily intake of nectar.

Birds, lizards and mammals play a role in this too. A tube-lipped nectar bat discovered in Ecuador in 2005 stores in its ribcage a nine-centimetre-long tongue that is more than one and a half times the length of its body. It uses its tongue to pollinate a specific type of plant.

While most pollinators are attracted to plants’ sweet and fruity scents, some species of flies prefer rather stinky ones. Rafflesia arnoldii is a species of flower known to be the largest in the world. Its smell of decomposing flesh attracts certain flies, among the most important pollinators of agricultural crops.  

Creatures and plants around us are full of surprises that preserve and beautify planet Earth.

Honey bees

According to FAO, more than three-quarters of the world’s crops depend on insect pollination. That’s a lot. The majority of crops grown for their fruits (vegetables such as cucumber, tomato and eggplant), nuts, fibre (such as cotton), and hay (alfalfa grown to feed livestock), depend on pollination by insects.

It is said that bees are responsible for one out of every three bites of food we eat. Apart from pollinating crops and providing us with food, the golden liquid produced by honey bees is also widely sought after.

During spring and summer, bees gorge on the nectar of flowers, but during the wintertime nectar supplies are short. So they make sure to store some for the winter. When a bee feeds on the nectar it goes to its stomach and enzymes do their job. The bee then heads back to its hive where it spits up the nectar into another bee’s mouth and the same is repeated a couple of times more. The bee then spits out the honey and stores it in a cell. They fan it to make it thicker and seal it for future use. The whole process has been beautifully designed!

Honey’s demand and consumption is increasing year by year. People around the world are opting for more natural products and companies are adding more honey to their products. But as demand goes up, production seems to be falling.

Zindustrializowana agrokultura zjada nasze naturalne środowisko

Bees are dying and disappearing in record numbers due to stress caused by parasites, insecticides and agri-business monocultures that turn meadows into acres of crops which offer no nectar for bees. This abnormal phenomenon called colony collapse disorder takes place when the majority of worker bees disappear, leaving behind their queen and plenty of food.

Similar phenomena are occurring around the world with different species of insects. And we are to blame because we keep destroying their habitats.

The threat

Flora and fauna are fundamental for our environment and our own existence. Today’s main environmental problems are all interconnected. We know what we are doing wrong and yet no drastic measures are being taken to tackle these issues. Take a look at this:

Seventy-one percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by oceans and the remaining 29 percent is land. However, only 71 percent of that land is considered to be habitable. Half of that land is used for agriculture and of that half, 77 percent is used for livestock (meat), either as land for grazing or land to grow animal feed.

These clear areas used for industrialised agriculture (77 percent for meat production) are hazardous for insects. We destroy their habitats and take away their source of food. And what we don’t realise is that they are OUR main source of food production. It’s very simple: as we get rid of natural green habitats in an uncontrolled way, insect numbers and pollination decline and we are unable to meet the global demand for food. 

Monocultures, over-fertilisation and the use of pesticides in agriculture are the main causes linked to insect extinction. Also, over-urbanisation, poor education and lack of proper measures are making it harder for insects to find food and habitats in cities and private gardens. All in all, 41 percent of all insect species are in decline and one-third is threatened with extinction, according to the Insect Atlas report.

Solutions ahead

Today, efforts are being made around the world to find ways to counter these phenomena. In Germany, a housing agent has brought her innovative idea to the table: putting green spaces between blocks of flats to turn them into flowering insect paradises. Insects are in need of these places because their habitats are usually destroyed in urbanised areas.

In Britain, Marek Nowakowski is one of the pioneers of ‘ecological intensification’. This concept looks to encourage farmers to plant fields of grasses, wild herbs and flowers all around their cultivated lands. This will not only create more spaces for insects to live in but will also benefit crop pollination.

In France, an association is working with farmers to advice them on how to reduce their use of pesticides on their crops. These experts encourage farmers to apply a smaller quantity of chemicals than what is written by the manufacturer on the labels. It also depends on the density of the crops, plant growth and weather conditions. Thanks to these efforts, farmers have managed to cut down on the use of pesticides by 15-20 percent.

We as individuals can also help. We can choose to learn more about, respect and preserve natural habitats. We can also pick the right plants to plant in our gardens because not all plants attract insects and we usually opt for the less time-consuming ones. These magical, buzzing insects help provide us with our favourite fruits and vegetables, their delicious honey, and beautiful, flowery gardens! They need a refuge from the outside world, and we can give them just that; it’s all in our hands.