The world’s vital insect kingdom is under “death by a thousand cuts”, according to the world’s greatest belly experts.
Climate change, insecticides, herbicides, light pollution, invasive species and changes in agriculture and land use are likely to cause the soil to lose 1 to 2 percent of its insects each year, said University of Connecticut entomologist David Wagner, lead author of a special 12-study package on Monday. Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences written by 56 researchers from around the world.
The problem, sometimes called the insect apocalypse, is like a jigsaw puzzle. And scientists say they still do not have all the pieces, so they have trouble understanding its enormity and complexity and getting the world to notice and do something.
LYT | The buzz about the insect apocalypse and how to stop it:
Quirks and Quarks20:35Can we avoid an insect apocalypse with a new understanding of creepy crawlies?
Wagner said researchers need to find out if the number of insect losses is greater than with other species.
“There’s some reason to worry more,” he said, because insects “are the target of attacks” with insecticides, herbicides and light pollution.
According to co-author and University of Illinois entomologist May Berenbaum, a National Medal of Science winner, “Insect decline can be compared to climate change 30 years ago because the methods of assessing the extent, the rate (loss) were difficult.”
Crucial to the environment
To make matters worse, in many cases people hate bugs, even though they pollinate much of the world’s crops, are vital to the food chain and get rid of waste, Berenbaum said.
Insects “are definitely the substance with which Mother Nature and the tree of life are built,” Wagner said.
Honeybees and monarch butterflies are two well-known species that best illustrate insect problems and decline, he said. Honeybees have been in dramatic decline due to disease, parasites, insecticides, herbicides and lack of food.
Dry weather driven by climate change in the western United States means less milk grass for butterflies to eat, Wagner said. And changes in American agriculture are removing the weeds and flowers they need for nectar.
“We are creating a huge biological desert apart from soybeans and corn in a huge area in the Midwest,” he said.
Monday’s scientific articles do not contain new data, but they do show a large and incomplete picture of a problem that is beginning to gain attention.
Scientists have identified one million insect species, while probably four million more are still to be discovered, Berenbaum said.
University of Delaware entomologist Doug Tallamy, who was not part of the study, said they highlight how the world has “spent the last 30 years spending billions of dollars on finding new ways to kill insects and just ear that working to preserve them. “
“The good news is, with the exception of climate change, individuals can do much to reverse insect decline,” Tallamy said in an email. “This is a global problem with a grassroots solution.”