logo insecte emblème

Multi-talented actors

1-To be or not to be ... an insect
2-Insects and popular wisdom
3-Close-up on insects
4-Home sweet home

5-Multi-talented actors

Serving the environment
Serving the economy
Serving culture
Role playing

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Jacks of all trades

They play an indispensable role in maintaining the balance of Nature. They improve our quality of life. Sometimes they are actually essential to our survival. Who are they? Insects, of course! They spend their lives working hard to keep our ecosystems running. Thanks to their many skills, they also make a major contribution to the economy. And with their great diversity of shapes and colours, they are a constant source of inspiration and fascination.


Because they are the primary source of food for many species of fish, amphibians, birds and mammals, insects are essential to these species’ survival. They also play a fundamental role in forming soil and keeping it fertile. They improve the underground environment for roots and help plants grow. Without scavenger insects, the trash, carcasses and fecal matter lying everywhere would be a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. In addition, insects are sensitive to environmental disturbances from pollution or natural phenomena like freezing, drought or ecological catastrophes. For this reason, some species are used as biological indicators.



Insects play a big part in the world economy, by producing honey, wax, silk and dyes. Some 80% of the plants that produce fruit, vegetables, textile fibres, pharmaceutical products, etc. are fertilized by pollinating insects. Others help to control the populations of different pests. They are valuable biological weapons for protecting crops, forests and livestock.



In addition to inspiring artists with their beauty, insects intrigue the scientists who study them and endeavour to understand their structures, physiological adaptations and sometimes unusual behaviour. For collectors, of course, they are often a true passion.


All the world’s a stage... and insects play a great variety of parts on it. Can you guess some of their roles? Just circle the correct answers below.


Act I: Serving the environment

Scene 1: Food sources

In this scene, insects provide food for:

a) fish, amphibians, birds, small mammals and even human beings.

b) some plants.

c) many other insects.


Scene 2: Workers

Insects dig tunnels in this scene, and

a) aerate and break down the soil.

b) make it easier for coal and diamond miners to get around underground.

c) help us build underground parking lots more quickly.


Scene 3: Scavengers

In this scene, insects act as recyclers. They:

a) closely inspect and sort garbage bags.

b) make the nutrients in the waste, plants and animal carcasses they feed on available for use again.

c) produce excellent compost, with the help of other organisms in the soil.


Scene 4: Warning signs

In this scene, insects give us indications about the state of the environment, since they:

a) carry news from one garden to another.

b) become more or less numerous in response to environmental disturbances.

c) spy on certain species on behalf of predators.


Act II: Serving the economy

Scene 5: Producers

Insects help keep the world economy rolling in this scene, as they:

a) make honey and wax.

b) are pictured on the banknotes of some countries.

c) give us silk and dyes.

d) produce electricity.


Scene 6: Pollinators

In this scene, insects carry pollen from flower to flower, and:

a) improve communications among plants.

b) help different species of plants reproduce.

c) make the production of different fruits and vegetables possible.

d) destroy weeds.


Scene 7: Pest control

Insects show themselves to be friends of humans in this scene, for they:

a) help birds find their way.

b) feed on insects that can harm crops, forests and livestock.

c) give us warnings about upcoming weather.

d) absorb some pollutants in the air.

Act III: Serving culture

Scene 8: Inspiration

In this scene, insects:

a) inspire artists with their striking shapes and beautiful colours.

b) fascinate collectors and scientists.

c) inspire birds, which would like to live in as many habitats as insects do.


  Click here for the solutions


Role playing
  • Ask participants to form small groups, and hand out the activity sheet.
  • Suggest that they discuss the questions and answers in their groups.
  • Then come back together as a large group to compare and talk about their answers.



  • Conduct a role-playing exercise. Assign one or more scenes to each group. Ask participants to illustrate a certain specific role played by insects for the rest of the group. They may mime or act out the scene, with the help of signs, posters and drawings. A quiz or an improvisational game are other possibilities.


Role playing









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ConceptInsectarium de Montréal French text: Marie Dufour Translations: Terry Knowles and Pamela Ireland
 Illustrations: Bruno Laporte Graphics: Studio multimédia, Ville de Montréal
This project has received financial support from the Action Environnement et Faune program
Our thanks to everyone who helped in producing this educational material
Web site by: Stéphan Giroux