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Thread: Does the routine killing of insects affect the ecosystem?

  1. #1 Does the routine killing of insects affect the ecosystem? 
    Forum Freshman Thrylix's Avatar
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    I'm 24, have a professional job, and I still tend to flatten any bug in my path. If I'm playing tennis or running and I see a spider or beetle crawling around my sneaker; I'll be honest - I'll probably squash it. I've never had a problem stepping on bugs, ever since I was a kid, and I've definitely stepped on more than my fair share of the little guys.

    However, I've seen some people object to the act. I'm considered an all-around good guy by people. But if I were being honest, I wouldn't have a second thought about demolishing a bustling anthill on the sidewalk, and like many others, I've done that plenty of times. What would be the logical objection? Some people say they feel pain but I can think of more painful ways to die than getting squashed instantly under the sole of a giant running shoe. Besides, when something is that small in size, do you really need a reason to step on it? Does Godzilla care about the humans he steps on? The smell of my feet could kill these little guys. I know that insects are overall important to our ecosystem, but will a few crushed ones make a difference?

    Should we care about the life of an insect?


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    Quote Originally Posted by Thrylix View Post

    Should we care about the life of an insect?

    Perhaps you should discuss this with a Jain?


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    Quote Originally Posted by Thrylix View Post
    Should we care about the life of an insect?
    From a scientific point of view, you raise good questions.

    My own objection stems from a respect for life.
    Quote Originally Posted by Thrylix View Post
    Besides, when something is that small in size, do you really need a reason to step on it?
    I do not see what size has to do with it.

    The objections would be more along the lines of reacting to the primitive and senseless act of squashing the bug. Do you actually have a valid reason for doing it or do you go ape-brain and just squash it simply because any bug is any other bug that might bite or sting?
    There are valid ethical reasons for not needlessly killing.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thrylix View Post
    Should we care about the life of an insect?
    No.
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    We should only kill out of necessity, if something more advanced was to come along that saw us the way we see bugs would we wish that to kill us just merely because we exist?
    “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”

    Bertrand Russell
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ascended View Post
    We should only kill out of necessity, if something more advanced was to come along that saw us the way we see bugs would we wish that to kill us just merely because we exist?
    Probably not. What's your point?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    Probably not. What's your point?
    Evolution is that which survives, survives. It's pretty much anything goes. And if anything goes, an evolved sense of responsibility and ethics counts as "anything."

    Should we care? Whether we should or not is not so much the question as whether or not it is in the best interests of our species to care about the condition of ecosystems on Earth. Whether you squash one little bug will make no difference to the ecosystem- but the mentality of being careless is only reenforced by that action. Whereas taking care on your actions as an individual encourages thinking more responsibly about the ecosystem.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Ascended View Post
    We should only kill out of necessity, if something more advanced was to come along that saw us the way we see bugs would we wish that to kill us just merely because we exist?
    Probably not. What's your point?
    Do I really need to explain this??? Oh well, the point is we should only treat others in the way we would wish to to be treated ourselves, and since we wouldn't wish to be killed indiscriminately for merely existing then why should we kill other living creatures just because they exist.

    Just a side note here, if we say yes it is fine to kill insects then why just insects? what about small mammals or reptiles or larger ones, I mean how would we and should we thus draw the line?
    “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”

    Bertrand Russell
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    Long ago, I heard a statistic stating that if all the offspring from a single pair of mating houseflies survived, in one year the entire Earth would be covered with those offspring, to a depth of several feet!

    Not sure where this came from, but it did point out the fact, obviously, that something, certainly many things, controls the the number of houseflies which survive. If lowly viruses are able to mutate their ability to enter living cells which have developed virally impervious membranes, cetainly insects would logically be able to go even further.

    Thus, of the trillions of insects, good and bad, which survive constantly, a few billion killed by humans will certainly not threaten insects' existence. The other point of view, obviously, is that of respect for life of any kind. jocular
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ascended View Post
    Do I really need to explain this??? Oh well, the point is we should only treat others in the way we would wish to to be treated ourselves, and since we wouldn't wish to be killed indiscriminately for merely existing then why should we kill other living creatures just because they exist.

    Just a side note here, if we say yes it is fine to kill insects then why just insects? what about small mammals or reptiles or larger ones, I mean how would we and should we thus draw the line?
    Personally, I draw the line at people because that's our own species.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    Personally, I draw the line at people because that's our own species.
    See now the worrying thing here is I don't actually know whether you are being serious.
    “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”

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    Quote Originally Posted by jocular View Post
    Long ago, I heard a statistic stating that if all the offspring from a single pair of mating houseflies survived, in one year the entire Earth would be covered with those offspring, to a depth of several feet!

    Not sure where this came from, but it did point out the fact, obviously, that something, certainly many things, controls the the number of houseflies which survive. If lowly viruses are able to mutate their ability to enter living cells which have developed virally impervious membranes, cetainly insects would logically be able to go even further.

    Thus, of the trillions of insects, good and bad, which survive constantly, a few billion killed by humans will certainly not threaten insects' existence. The other point of view, obviously, is that of respect for life of any kind. jocular
    The lifespan of a common housefly is less than a week. Average will die within one day.
    That's because of how their bodies are structured- they die of old age within a week.
    Of course, predators crunch up many of them, but even if they didn't, they would die very shortly after evading a predator of their own bodies wearing out, anyway.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jocular View Post

    Thus, of the trillions of insects, good and bad, which survive constantly, a few billion killed by humans will certainly not threaten insects' existence. The other point of view, obviously, is that of respect for life of any kind. jocular
    I think though again if we don't have a basic respect for all life then what is our or could our reasoning be for discrimination or could we just adopt a principle that it is fine to kill anything at will without a reason.
    “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ascended View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    Personally, I draw the line at people because that's our own species.
    See now the worrying thing here is I don't actually know whether you are being serious.
    That's okay. I worry about you, too.


    Quote Originally Posted by Neverfly
    Should we care? Whether we should or not is not so much the question as whether or not it is in the best interests of our species to care about the condition of ecosystems on Earth. Whether you squash one little bug will make no difference to the ecosystem- but the mentality of being careless is only reenforced by that action. Whereas taking care on your actions as an individual encourages thinking more responsibly about the ecosystem
    .

    I don't find your argument convincing. We can make rational choices about the ecosystem while still stepping on bugs.
    Last edited by Harold14370; February 22nd, 2013 at 08:43 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ascended View Post
    I think though again if we don't have a basic respect for all life then what is our or could our reasoning be for discrimination or could we just adopt a principle that it is fine to kill anything at will without a reason.
    I didn't think we were talking about killing anything at all, reason or no, but rather humans killing insects. Perhaps I misunderstand the options for consideration here: still, I believe most "stomp" on a bug primarily due to fear of it, more than anything else, would you not agree? jocular
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    I don't find your argument convincing. We can make rational choices about the ecosystem while still stepping on bugs.
    True. And I agree it's not very convincing. Rather, a personal point of view.

    For example, a Pest Control Technician (Exterminator) can mind the ecosystem just fine, using Eco-friendlier means of killing bugs.
    But in the end, the term "pest" is based entirely on human convenience. I think it's as important to recognize that- or the reason for stomping a spider is primitive fear- as it is to recognize our need to mentally balance our reasons for encroaching on other lifeforms.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thrylix View Post
    I'm 24, have a professional job, and I still tend to flatten any bug in my path. If I'm playing tennis or running and I see a spider or beetle crawling around my sneaker; I'll be honest - I'll probably squash it. I've never had a problem stepping on bugs, ever since I was a kid, and I've definitely stepped on more than my fair share of the little guys.

    However, I've seen some people object to the act. I'm considered an all-around good guy by people. But if I were being honest, I wouldn't have a second thought about demolishing a bustling anthill on the sidewalk, and like many others, I've done that plenty of times. What would be the logical objection? Some people say they feel pain but I can think of more painful ways to die than getting squashed instantly under the sole of a giant running shoe. Besides, when something is that small in size, do you really need a reason to step on it? Does Godzilla care about the humans he steps on? The smell of my feet could kill these little guys. I know that insects are overall important to our ecosystem, but will a few crushed ones make a difference?

    Should we care about the life of an insect?
    To answer your question, humans have been killing bugs for as long as there have been humans. It hasn't made any difference to the ecosystem. Should we worry about killing them? Personally when I kill a bug I never give it a second thought. I don't ever go out of my way to kill bugs that are not bothering me, but if a bug invades my house it's going to die if I see it. If I have a yard or garden I also will do what I need to do to protect it from bugs.

    If there's a life form that could find us and squish us without giving it a second thought. That's the breaks just the same as an asteroid smashing the life on earth. We will go extinct sooner or later. It's just a matter of when it will happen.
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    Quote Originally Posted by arKane View Post
    To answer your question, humans have been killing bugs for as long as there have been humans. It hasn't made any difference to the ecosystem. Should we worry about killing them? Personally when I kill a bug I never give it a second thought. I don't ever go out of my way to kill bugs that are not bothering me, but if a bug invades my house it's going to die if I see it. If I have a yard or garden I also will do what I need to do to protect it from bugs.
    I tend to leave spiders and mosquito eaters alone.
    Moths and flies annoy me at times, but are rarely killed by me because they usually don't last long enough to bother with. Bees and such, I catch and release outside.
    I'm a bit protective of honey bees...
    About the only bugs I will actively kill in the home are two species of spider, fleas and cockroaches. Outside of the home, should I encounter certain bugs where my son plays such as centipedes, ticks fleas and chiggers.
    This is due to threat of lyme, bacterial infections from bites or venomous bites.
    Every other bug just doesn't bother me much. Flies and roaches have trouble sticking around to get food. I use preventative measures to avoid termites and fleas from being tracked in. Everyone has them around them. The only difference is whether they are present enough to get seen.

    Quote Originally Posted by arKane View Post
    If there's a life form that could find us and squish us without giving it a second thought. That's the breaks just the same as an asteroid smashing the life on earth. We will go extinct sooner or later. It's just a matter of when it will happen.
    Doesn't mean we wouldn't do whatever we can to fight back.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neverfly View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by arKane View Post
    If there's a life form that could find us and squish us without giving it a second thought. That's the breaks just the same as an asteroid smashing the life on earth. We will go extinct sooner or later. It's just a matter of when it will happen.
    Doesn't mean we wouldn't do whatever we can to fight back.
    I would hope so and I would like it if we can spot and stop asteriods too.
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    Quote Originally Posted by arKane View Post
    I would hope so and I would like it if we can spot and stop asteriods too.
    I agree- We need to kick some asteroid.
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    I care about all life. I see no reason to kill an insect that doesn't threaten you. I'll kill a mosquito that bites me, for instance, but I won't spray my backyard with pesticide. I leave the spiders who build their webs in the bushes and around my garage lights to take care of the problem.

    Heck, I had a black widow problem in my garage in Oregon and didn't kill them. The problem was resolved when a fascinating little spider that impersonates black widows and then eats them showed up. Not only that, but I learned something. I had no idea that kind of spider existed.

    For me, it's just a matter of respect.
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    Spidey is no insect but the term bug fits.

    Knowing that the bite of a bug may kill you via venom or hypersensitivity/allergy then I can see how some people might react mercilessly. Those monstrous insects of Earth's prehistory, did they or did they not wreak havoc on our little furry ancestors? If so then retribution is fair turnabout. I won't be joining Starship Troopers anytime soon however.
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    While not insects, spiders suffer from the same stigma of, "It's creepy so kill it!" even though most of them are not only harmless to us (or even pose little danger), but are extremely beneficial.

    Ants are another commonly-killed critter. My ex-g/f used to get so mad at me when she would complain about her ant problem and I would tell her, "Don't leave food out" instead of buying chemicals and spraying them all over the house.

    Given what humans have done to the natural world, I can only laugh when people say they want to kill them because they are destructive.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    "Don't leave food out"
    And this is far more effective, as well.
    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    Given what humans have done to the natural world, I can only laugh when people say they want to kill them because they are destructive.
    Truer words never spoken.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    I care about all life. I see no reason to kill an insect that doesn't threaten you. For me, it's just a matter of respect.
    It's hard for me to respect a life form so small that I could more easily slide my foot over than save. I'm not sure I really go out of my way to kill them. I don't chase them around like some maniac. It's more like, I'm standing on the sidewalk talking to someone, and I'll idly plant my foot on a nearby anthill and stand on it. Minimal effort involved. As for the ants fate, I'm too distanced too care. If some giant alien came to earth and started demolishing our cities either due to boredom or callous curiosity, I guess I wouldn't have any philosophical standing to begrudge him. Hell, I might even do the same thing in his place. Like the other poster said, thems the brakes.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thrylix View Post
    It's hard for me to respect a life form so small that I could more easily slide my foot over than save. I'm not sure I really go out of my way to kill them. I don't chase them around like some maniac. It's more like, I'm standing on the sidewalk talking to someone, and I'll idly plant my foot on a nearby anthill and stand on it. Minimal effort involved.
    This is not how you described it in the O.P.
    In the O.P., you said that if you see a bug, spider or insect in your immediate vicinity, you make sure to squash it.
    "Oh a bug." STOMP.

    That's a very, very different thing from accidentally stepping on it by lack of awareness of your surroundings.

    Speaking for myself, I do not tend to stand on anthills. It's selfish, really. I do not do it because I'll end up covered in ants, not because I fear stepping on one.
    I pay attention to my surroundings.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neverfly View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Thrylix View Post
    It's hard for me to respect a life form so small that I could more easily slide my foot over than save. I'm not sure I really go out of my way to kill them. I don't chase them around like some maniac. It's more like, I'm standing on the sidewalk talking to someone, and I'll idly plant my foot on a nearby anthill and stand on it. Minimal effort involved.
    This is not how you described it in the O.P.
    In the O.P., you said that if you see a bug, spider or insect in your immediate vicinity, you make sure to squash it.
    "Oh a bug." STOMP.
    Yeah, that is what I meant. Of course my stepping on the anthill is purposeful. I'm just saying I don't go hunting them down. That would just be nutty. To me stepping on a bug is as habitual (and I realize pointless) as kicking a rock or empty soda can. There doesn't have to be a point to in doing it, though. I'll probably only go a step or two out of the way to do it.



    Speaking for myself, I do not tend to stand on anthills. It's selfish, really. I do not do it because I'll end up covered in ants, not because I fear stepping on one.
    I pay attention to my surroundings.
    Why would it be selfish?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thrylix View Post
    Why would it be selfish?
    I don't like being covered in ants.
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    Oh, I thought you meant it was selfish to step on it. I've never been covered in ants from stepping on an anthill. They get crushed/trapped under my running shoe.

    What sort of ants do you have where you live? I'm just talking about run of the mill sidewalk ants.
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    An anthill here is usually about 24 inches across and 16 inches high. You do not really want to stand on one...
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thrylix View Post
    It's hard for me to respect a life form so small that I could more easily slide my foot over than save.
    If size is your primary factor for judging the value of life, it must freak you out that we live on a world dominated by creatures we cannot see.

    I would suggest that you learn a little more about the insects you're crushing. It's my knowledge of them and respect for them that drives me to save them or, at the very least, not kill them at every opportunity.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neverfly View Post
    An anthill here is usually about 24 inches across and 16 inches high. You do not really want to stand on one...
    Ah, definitely wouldn't do that here either. I'm talking about the little antmounds that are maybe a cm. high and 2 or 3 inches across.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Neverfly View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Thrylix View Post
    It's hard for me to respect a life form so small that I could more easily slide my foot over than save. I'm not sure I really go out of my way to kill them. I don't chase them around like some maniac. It's more like, I'm standing on the sidewalk talking to someone, and I'll idly plant my foot on a nearby anthill and stand on it. Minimal effort involved.
    This is not how you described it in the O.P.
    In the O.P., you said that if you see a bug, spider or insect in your immediate vicinity, you make sure to squash it.
    "Oh a bug." STOMP.

    That's a very, very different thing from accidentally stepping on it by lack of awareness of your surroundings.

    Speaking for myself, I do not tend to stand on anthills. It's selfish, really. I do not do it because I'll end up covered in ants, not because I fear stepping on one.
    I pay attention to my surroundings.
    Not many people have experience with fire ants. But I happen to know you do, because of where you live. They have been known to take down and kill cattle when the ant mounds get to be several feet across. They are sometimes hard to see in a lawn that needs mowing, so if you stand on one it doesn't take very long before you know it. I used Amdro to get rid of them. It works the best on fire ants, but fire ants are the most prolific ants I've ever seen no sooner would I get rid of them, there would be new mounds the next week. Anyway at that time I had a couple of small dogs that I wanted to protect from the little buggers and I showed them no mercy.

    PS - I think the Dallas/Fortworth Texas area is in the running for the bug capital of the US and most of them bite or sting. If they don't bite or sting they are a big nuisance in other ways. For instance I witnessed a cricket invasion that was something to behold. Even the seagulls and crows couldn't make a dent in the numbers.
    Last edited by arKane; February 23rd, 2013 at 06:03 PM.
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    Yeah I hit one with the weedwhacker last week. Which of course, sent ant projectiles fling all over me. I didn't even notice that I'd been covered til I got several feet away.

    I noticed it with alacrity. then.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Thrylix View Post
    It's hard for me to respect a life form so small that I could more easily slide my foot over than save.
    If size is your primary factor for judging the value of life, it must freak you out that we live on a world dominated by creatures we cannot see.
    Including the billions of microbes of non-human cells that live in us and on us and outnumber our human cells by a sizeable fraction.
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    Yes it quite clearly does have an effect.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    Including the billions of microbes of non-human cells that live in us and on us and outnumber our human cells by a sizeable fraction.
    Which brings up yet another of my "imponderables". Science has "licked" numerous harmful microbes, or universally controlled them, to the betterment of life for humans. Yet, zillions of different ones continue to exist and jeopardize tranquil living.

    Why has Science not been able to completely eradicate ALL harmful microbes? jocular
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    Quote Originally Posted by jocular View Post
    Why has Science not been able to completely eradicate ALL harmful microbes? jocular
    Why have you not solved ALL problems? Because each problem is different. Each microbe or virus is structured differently from others and what effects one will have no effect on the other.
    We cannot observe, in intricate detail, the microscopic world. We can to a limited degree with microscopes, but that is so time consuming and tedious, it's not practical on our level. So we must observe macroscopic effects when when influence the microscopic.

    Perhaps someday, in the future, we will build machines with nanotechnology, capable of routinely observing and directly influencing the microscopic world. Until that day- be patient. It's a tough battlefield to see.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ascended View Post
    [Just a side note here, if we say yes it is fine to kill insects then why just insects? what about small mammals or reptiles or larger ones, I mean how would we and should we thus draw the line?
    Draw it anywhere as long as it does not exclude politicians and lawyers.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jocular View Post
    Yet, zillions of different ones continue to exist and jeopardize tranquil living.
    Considering they were here long before us, outnumber us, and are responsible for our existence I imagine they could say the same thing about us.

    What are these giant pink things that keep spraying bleach on us?!
    Thrylix likes this.
    "Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." -Calvin
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    Speaking of jains, they are strictly non violent to the point where they sweep away ants to avoid killing them.

    But what if violence is visited on them or they witness violence visited on others? If I went to a jain village and slapped some mosquitoes or demolished a couple anthills, what would they do? Would they strike back or just watch as their little ancestors are crushed under my sole..
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    Some fun facts numbers here. I ask the question on wiki.answers how many insects there were per human.
    The answer:
    At any given moment, it has been estimated that the insect population is 10^18 or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000
    and the global human population is:
    6,730,609,019
    We can estimate there are 148,574,965.09 insects per human.
    Now if the average human lives 75 years.... that would be estimated 657,450 hours or 39,447,360 minutes or 2,366,841,600 seconds.

    So if a single human would want to kill off atleast his share... he'd have to kill (148,574,965.09 / 39,447,360=) 3.766 insect during every minute in his lifetime.

    ... ofcourse these are just estimated numbers, not scientific fact. I did no fact checking on it myself.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Estheria Quintessimo View Post
    Some fun facts numbers here. I ask the question on wiki.answers how many insects there were per human.
    The answer:
    At any given moment, it has been estimated that the insect population is 10^18 or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000
    and the global human population is:
    6,730,609,019
    We can estimate there are 148,574,965.09 insects per human.
    Now if the average human lives 75 years.... that would be estimated 657,450 hours or 39,447,360 minutes or 2,366,841,600 seconds.

    So if a single human would want to kill off atleast his share... he'd have to kill (148,574,965.09 / 39,447,360=) 3.766 insect during every minute in his lifetime.

    ... ofcourse these are just estimated numbers, not scientific fact. I did no fact checking on it myself.
    Damn, I've got a lot of catching up to do.. hah!

    Really though, what would jains say about a guy like me? Admittedly, I treat bugs like dirt and I step on them for no reason all the time. But does that make me a murderer in their eyes?
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