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Why do insects matter? Alberta bug course will tell you

Dengue fever vector, mosquito biting hand.
Dengue fever vector, mosquito biting hand. Joao Paulo Burini / Getty Images

Sure, they may be a bit of a nuisance when they’re buzzing around your head when you’re enjoying a summer evening outdoors. But the human-insect interaction might be more important than you think.

A new course offered by the University of Alberta — Bugs 101 — is meant to introduce people to the importance of human-insect interactions in the context of climate change and global biodiversity.

“Insect-human interactions are likely to become even more important with a changing planet,” said Maya Evenden, professor in the university’s Department of Biological Sciences and lead on Bugs 101.

READ MORE: The bugs we need — bees, ladybugs, butterflies — appear to be dying off, scientists say

Evenden hopes people will come out of the course with a better understanding of the diversity of insect life and the importance of insects to many aspects of human society.

“Insects are particularly sensitive to environmental change, especially changes in temperature. Climate change will change the distributions of insects on the planet and how they interact with people,” Evenden said.

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“Population and biodiversity decline of insects has been a hot topic in recent media reports, and the underlying drivers of this include human actions that affect insects directly — such as pesticide use, or indirectly — like habitat modification and invasive species.”

READ MORE: Extreme weather could impact invasive insect species, says Winnipeg forester

Course material includes learning more about which insects are the strongest or fastest for their size and which animals were the first to evolve flight. The course will also teach people about the benefits of pollination and biological pest control and the transmission of life-threatening diseases.

Bugs 101 is a free online course offered through the university’s Coursera platform. The course will also be available for credit to undergraduate students at the University of Alberta starting this fall as ENT 101.

Watch below: How Alberta’s cold weather helps in the fight against mountain pine beetles

How Alberta’s cold weather helps in the fight against mountain pine beetles
How Alberta’s cold weather helps in the fight against mountain pine beetles