Dollar value of insect services more than $57 billion a year in the United States

Reports new Cornell University – Xerces Society study

For Immediate Release:  April 1, 2006

Contacts: Mace Vaughan Conservation Director, Xerces Society (503-232-6639)
John Losey, Associate Professor of Entomology, Cornell University (607-255-7376)

PORTLAND, ORE. and ITHACA, NY – A new study in the April issue of the journal Bioscience shows that insects provide services worth more than $57 billion to Americans. Insects are food for wildlife that supports a $50 billion recreation industry. Native insects provide more than $4.5 billion in pest control, pollinate $3 billion in crops, and clean up grazing lands with a subsequent savings to ranchers of more than $380  million.

The analysis of the economic value of insects’ providing wildlife nutrition, pest control, pollination, and dung burial services is the first analysis of its type for native insects. The four insect services-dung burial, pest control, pollination, and wildlife nutrition-were chosen not because of their importance but because of the availability of data and an algorithm for their estimation.

“Our study shows that the estimated annual value of these ecological services alone provides at least $57 billion in the U.S.” said John Losey, associate professor of entomology at Cornell University. “These are very conservative estimates that probably represent only a fraction of the true value.”

The article focused on the ecological services provided by “wild” insects and did not include services from domesticated or mass-reared insect species.

“Native insects are an integral part of a complex web of interactions that helps put food on our tables and removes our wastes. In fact, humans – and probably most life on earth – would perish without insects,” said Mace Vaughan, co-author of the study and Conservation Director of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. The Society works to protect habitat that sustains vital services through education and research programs aimed at the restoration of native insect habitat for crop pollination, and management of natural areas for invertebrates.

To estimate the value that insects provide for each of these services, Losey and Vaughan looked at current spending in the U.S. economy that relies on a service provided by a native insect. In the case of food for wildlife, they looked at consumer spending. For all other services, the authors considered the prices paid to producers.

“A lot of value is added to the economy by insects, but most people just don’t realize it,” said Losey. “When considering the allocation of conservation resources, or the management of natural habitat, we must think about this value to make sure that insects can continue to do their beneficial work.”

The study does not take into account the significant increase in value that consumers pay for the produce or meat after it is turned into value-added products like jams, ketchup or hamburgers, or when the alfalfa hay derived from insect-pollinated seeds is fed to cattle for milk or beef production.

“This added value may increase the economic contribution of insects up an additional ten-fold.

We would love to see someone take this analysis to that higher level,” says Vaughan.

Article Abstract:
The Economic Value of Ecological Services Provided by Insects, by John Losey and Mace Vaughan. April 2006. Bioscience. Vol. 56, No. 4, pages 311-323.

In this article we focus on the vital ecological services provided by insects. We restrict our focus to services provided by “wild” insects; we do not include services from domesticated or mass-reared insect species. The four insect services for which we provide value estimates-dung burial, pest control, pollination, and wildlife nutrition-were chosen not because of their importance but because of the availability of data and an algorithm for their estimation. We base our estimations of the value of each service on projections of losses that would accrue if insects were not functioning at their current level. We estimate the annual value of these
ecological services provided in the United States to be at least $57 billion, an amount that justifies greater investment in the conservation of these services.

For high resolution photos of pollinators or birds feeding on insects, please contact Mace Vaughan at 503-232-6639.

Related World Wide Web sites:
John Losey’s Web page:

Xerces Society Web page:


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