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Why should we be concerned about the ‘Insect Crisis’?

Insect Crisis by Slamet Fauzi
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Perspective on the presence of insects

Consider a world free of insects. You may exhale a sigh of relief at the prospect of mosquito-free summers, or you may be concerned about how agriculture will work in the absence of pollinators. What you surely won’t imagine is slogging through a landscape covered with feces and rotting bodies – imagine a world without maggots and dung bugs.

The impact of insect crisis

The loss of insects would be an excruciating experience that would match any war and even the looming atrocities of climate change. Despite this, the danger of an approaching “insect apocalypse” receives far less attention than climate change [1].

For decades, scientists have been seeing dwindling insect numbers. Insect biomass had plummeted by 98 percent on the ground and 80 percent in the canopy since the mid-1970s, according to an analysis of nearly 40 years of data from a protected rainforest in Puerto Rico [2].

Light pollution, increased pesticide use, and climate change are just a few of the dangers insects face (SN: 8/31/21; SN: 8/17/16; SN: 7/9/15). And it’s not just unusual species that are in jeopardy; species that were formerly common all over the world are as well [3].

It’s improbable that there will ever be a world without insects. While some species are declining, others, such as freshwater insects, appear to be doing well (SN: 4/23/20). Instead of seeing the bug issue as a single downward-trending line on a graph, an environment correspondent for Guardian USA (Oliver Milman) advises seeing a slew of various lines – some steady, others sloping up or down, and some zigzagging. “Insects are being transferred to an unhappy condition,” he says, “where there will be far more bedbugs and mosquitos and significantly fewer bumblebees and monarch butterflies.” [1]

Those changes in biodiversity have ramifications. Farmers may have to fight more pests that attack soybeans, for example, and insect-pollinated fruits and vegetables may become difficult to raise in large quantities. Some insect-eating creatures will diminish or even disappear if their food sources disappear, as some birds have already done [4]. The quality of the water and soil could potentially be jeopardized.

Scientists Suggestion

So, what can we do to avoid an insect apocalypse? According to scientists, mowing should be avoided as much as possible. Allow the grass to grow around your house to feed the insects. Many insects require organic crops, so grow them. Excessive use of chemical pesticides should be avoided, and plants should be grown organically.

A world without the internet would be difficult but livable. The same can’t be said for a world without insects.

References

[1] Milman, O. (2022). The Insect Crisis: The Fall of the Tiny Empires That Run the World. New York City : W. W. Norton & Company.

[2] Sánchez-Bayo, F &  Kris A.G. Wyckhuys. (2019). Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers. Biological Conservation Journal, (232) : 8-27. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2019.01.020.

[3] Avalon C.S. Owens, Précillia Cochard, Joanna Durrant, Bridgette Farnworth, Elizabeth K. Perkin, & Brett Seymoure. (2020) Light pollution is a driver of insect declines. Biological Conservation, (241) : M108259. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2019.108259.

[4] Newton, Ian. (2004). The recent declines of farmland bird populations in Britain: An appraisal of causal factors and conservation actions. Ibis. 146 : 579 – 600. 10.1111/j.1474-919X.2004.00375.x.

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