Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

10 Insects We Love to Study

Without you, our crops are toast. przemekklos/iStock/Thinkstock
Without you, our crops are toast. przemekklos/iStock/Thinkstock

Entomologists around the world spend a lot of time studying honeybees (Apis mellifera), thanks to their critical role in farming. Not only are the buzzing bugs important to the production of honey, but they also are the chief pollinators of crops.In the U.S., all pollinating insects contribute around $24 billion to the economy. Of that number, honeybees contribute $15 billion by pollinating more than 130 fruit and vegetable crops [source: The White House]. The bees pollinate 80 percent of all flowering crops, which is nearly 33 percent of everything humans eat [source: Boland]. Losing them can negatively affect all of us. If they die out, honeybees will take most pollinated plants with them.

Much of the research focuses on Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). CCD takes place when all (or nearly all) of the adult bees in the colony, except the queen, die out. No one knows exactly why CCD occurs, but scientists are looking to various pathogens, parasites and environmental stressors for answers.

Aside from the crop question, studying the biology, evolution and physiology of honeybees may yield benefits for human health. Some doctors have used bee venom to treat autoimmune diseases and arthritis [source: Agriculture Defense Coalition]. For example, the medical director of the Monmouth Pain Institute in Red Bank, New Jersey, spent two years in the 1980s treating 108 arthritis patients with bee venom. Dr. Christopher Kim found that most of the patients improved after receiving 12 injections, but such treatments still warrant additional study [source: Downey].