New Zealand Entomologist (1995) 18(1): 91–96
©New Zealand Entomological Society, Inc.

Journal Article
Insects, lies and history: a personal viewpoint

A. C. G. Heath

New Zealand is a small country with a small economy and scientific research is not regarded sufficiently highly enough to be given the operating budget it warrants. Within this framework of penury and lack of regard stands New Zealand entomology, a highly talented but deeply worried figure, largely undecided as to what direction it should face and what the future holds. While it is a fact that New Zealand insects occupy many levels of value and participation in the country's geological history and economic development to name two areas of influence, it is suggested that what appears to be currently a piece-meal approach to entomological research should be reconsidered. While it is accepted that all species, known and unknown are worthy of study for their own sake, it is nevertheless proposed that New Zealand entomology would be better served by a rationalisation and consolidation of research priorities. If such a pragmatic approach was applied to the most pressing and economically important entomological problems, and if a wide range of scientific disciplines (in addition to entomology) were integrated, better use could be made of the currently inadequate funds and better progress made in solving problems. On another front, but in parallel with condensation of research topics, entomology is ideally placed to lead the current move towards learning to live in equilibrium with our fellow biota. We can enlighten the ignorant as to the role that insects play and how we can best live in harmony with them. Such ideals should include all species known and yet to be discovered, but be tempered with common sense and the realisation that human evolutionary development has resulted in the destruction of many other organisms that share the planet. There seems to be little point in fighting expensive rear guard actions to preserve species on the verge of extinction, but there is every reason for ensuring that current and future contact with all other organisms occurs with our full knowledge of their needs. We have demonstrated our fitness for survival as a species by establishing cities, crop monocultures and industries and these are inevitable consequences of our survival and growth. We need feel no guilt for these historical facts but it is not too late to improve our standing with the environment, and entomological resources can be used to enable New Zealand entomologists to be part of that change.

Keywords: Research priorities, conservation, insects, New Zealand