Insects are among the oldest of all terrestrial organisms, and experts believe that there may exist as many as 30 million insect species alive on the planet today. It is estimated that the total number of individual insects alive at this moment is around 10 quintillion. Considering that the vast majority of animal species on this planet are insects, as well as the fact that insects are essential to maintaining the proper balance of the ecosystem, you would think that insects would feature prominently in science textbooks, but researchers have found that this is no longer the case. According to a new study published in American Entomologist, insects have been appearing in textbooks less and less over the past 100 years, and now, insects are virtually non-existent in introductory science books. This trend is troubling to biologists, entomologists and many other scientists due to the fact that insects are essential components of the natural environment, and without insects, many other forms of life would not be able to exist on earth, including humans.

Two researchers at North Carolina State University, Kiran Gangwani and Jennifer Landin, searched for information relating to insects within 88 different textbooks that were published between 1907 and 2016. The researchers first searched for sections titled “insect biodiversity” within the textbooks, when these sections were absent within a particular book, the researchers simply searched for the word “insect” within sections that discussed life cycle or diversity. The results showed that very few introductory science books still discuss insect biology. The most significant decrease occurred within textbooks published after the year 2000. Insect-related content decreased by 75 percent in textbooks after the year 2000 when compared to the textbooks published before 1965. More specifically, textbooks published between 1900 and 1920 had an average of 32.6 pages that were devoted to insect biology in each book, but textbooks published between 2000 and 2017 had just 5.67 pages of insect-related content. The amount of insect-related illustrations and diagrams also decreased dramatically in science textbooks during the past 20 years. The decrease in insect-related information within science textbooks is troubling to scientists, as insect populations are currently decreasing dramatically around the world. In order to restore insect diversity on this planet, future generations will need access to experts on insect biology, but this study indicates that such experts may be few and far between in the future unless educators once again make insect biology an essential part of introductory science courses.

Do you remember studying insect biology when you were in high school or college?