Warm weather means a greater likelihood of encountering insects but experts are pleading with the scared and squeamish to please not swat.
Flies can be our friends, wasps are warriors for the good and, even when airborne, ants are harmless.
So says Dr Dara Stanley, lecturer in entomology at University College Dublin.
“Insects get a bad rap because people often worry about being stung or bitten but insects are so important,” she said.
“They help with the functioning of all of our natural systems. They help to decompose plants and animals, they keep the soil healthy, they pollinate our plants and they help to control pests.
“Lots of people are scared of wasps or don’t like wasps but they’re really important predators that feed on other insects that might cause us trouble.
“They’re like the lions of the insect world – they keep the population of other insects under control.
‘Ants are great ecosystem engineers’
“At the end of the wasp’s life cycle, around the end of July and into August, the wasp colonies get older and things begin to break down and that’s when wasps start to feed on sugary things.
“That’s when they begin to come into contact with us humans who also like sugar. We are united in our love of sugary substances.”
Bees can be tarred with the same brush, or smacked with the same swatter, even though they are rarely aggressive and are vital to the pollination of wild plants and farm crops.
But so also are moths, butterflies, beetles and even flies, which are also important in the diet of wild birds.
Flying ants, an annual phenomenon around this time of year, are often greeted with horror but again, Dr Stanley pleads for understanding.
“Ants are great ecosystem engineers. They’re really good decomposers and clean up lots of plant and insect matter and also disperse the seeds of some plants,” said Dr Stanley.
“When they’re flying, it’s because they’re reproductive and they have developed wings to try to escape and find new ants to mate with.”
Readers of a certain age might wonder what the fuss is about as there was a time when the main summer sport in Ireland was the great fly chase. Rolled up newspapers were always at the ready, cans of fly spray were afforded the same importance as salad cream on the shopping list and jam jars empty bar the scrapings were left on windowsills to trap the hordes of invading wasps.
By comparison, now it seems you nearly have to smear yourself in jam to have a chance of being stung and the rolled-up newspaper serves best as a telescope with which to hope for a sighting of some rare flying beastie.
When exactly things changed is hard to pinpoint because insects were so numerous, nobody bothered counting them.
The National Biodiversity Data Centre was only established in 2007 and its director, Liam Lysaght, said there is still far too little systematic species monitoring.
“The longest insect monitoring scheme is the butterfly monitoring scheme and that’s running for only 16 years,” said Mr Lysaght.
So while there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to show insect numbers have plummeted, hard scientific data is lacking.
“There’s absolutely no doubt that numbers have fallen. I turn 60 this year and I remember the late 1960s and early 70s when there were clouds of insects at night. There’s a fraction of the insect life around now. What we don’t have is the evidence to capture the changes,” added Mr Lysaght.
The review of the last National Biodiversity Plan pointed to the need for much more data collection and Mr Lysaght would love to see a regular census of every insect.
Dr Stanley says the difficulty in monitoring insect populations is worldwide.
“There have been some very good studies that certainly back up the belief that numbers are falling but we have nearly 12,000 insect species in Ireland and globally it’s estimated we have anywhere between five and 10 million because many have not been named or even discovered yet so we just don’t know a lot about them.”
An added challenge is that the target for study is moving. Climate change is enabling – or requiring – some species to move.
Two new bees that crossed Europe to Britain arrived in Ireland in the last five years. Ticks, which carry Lyme disease, are thought to be on the increase here although there is a scarcity of data. And at least two types of mosquito are well established although not in sufficient numbers to present a disease threat.
Nevertheless, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), which had to “de-prioritise” scrutiny of malaria cases here during Covid, is to get back on the case before the end of the year.
The Department of Agriculture, meanwhile, is having to be vigilant for “bluetongue”, a virus spread by midges that causes huge damage to livestock.
It has affected parts of mainland Europe and any leap to Britain would likely be followed by an appearance here.