Biologists classify insects in a group called arthropoda. Arthropoda species consist of insects, arachnids, crustaceans, chilopods and diplopods. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, species from each subgroup populate soil and benefit its fertility by breaking down plant matter, consuming and digesting other arthropoda, consuming and digesting fungi, and transporting microorganisms throughout the soil. Insects play many parts in this grand scheme of nutrient recycling and mutual population control.
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Plant-shredding arthropods break down dead plant matter to eat bacteria and/or fungi present on the matter. This shredding action helps to incorporate organic material into the soil. Most plant shredders are diplopods and crustaceans, but some insects, such as cockroaches, also shred dead plant matter.
Predacious arthropods feed on the live or dead bodies of other soil organisms. The digestion of the organisms breaks down the nutrients present in their bodies and adds to the organic matter of the soil. Predacious soil insects include beetles and ants. Beetles, such as ladybirds, eat many garden pests and perform two beneficial tasks: they biologically control pests and increase soil fertility.
Herbivorous soil-dwelling arthropods eat the roots of plants, and include insects such as mole crickets and root maggots. In a healthy and balanced soil environment, herbivorous soil insects stimulate plant root growth while cycling and adding nutrients to the soil through their faeces. However, gardeners must ensure that the populations of these insects do not reach disproportionate amounts. If so, herbivorous soil insects may eat too many live plant roots, killing the plants they feed upon.
Fungus-eating arthropods keep fungal growth under control. Moreover, they cycle and release fungal growth nutrients through digestion and excretion of fecal matter. Silverfish are the most prevalent fungus-eating and soil-dwelling insects. These insects live near plant roots to take advantage of the fungus feeding ground that roots supply.
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