Our generation is presiding over an ecological apocalypse and we have somehow or other normalized it. Certainly, the statistics are grim. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.”
An Insect Armageddon is under way, say many entomologists, the result of a multiple whammy of environmental impacts: pollution, habitat changes, overuse of pesticides, and global warming.
And it is a decline that could have crucial consequences. Our creepy crawlies may have unsettling looks but they lie at the foot of a wildlife food chain that makes them vitally important to the makeup and nature of the countryside.
Threatened insects include the New Forest cicada, the tansy beetle and the oil beetle. Native ladybird populations are crashing; three quarters of butterfly species – such as the painted lady and the Glanville fritillary – have dropped significantly in numbers.
While bees, of which there are more than 250 species in the UK, are also suffering major plunges in populations, with great yellow bumblebees, solitary potter flower bees and other species declining steeply in recent years.
The best illustration of the ecological importance of insects is provided by our bird life. Without insects, hundred of species face starvation and some ornithologists believe this lack of food is already causing serious declines in bird numbers.
Britain’s farmland birds have more than halved in number since 1970. Insects also play invaluable roles in other parts of the environment – for example as pollinators of our orchards and fruit fields. And again, scientists are worried.
But perhaps the most alarming aspect of the research was the realization that these grim drops in insect numbers were occurring in nature reserves.
In other words, in areas where the landscape was highly protected and should be the most friendly of habitats for insects. Conditions elsewhere were likely to be a lot worse, the scientists warned.
Insects make up about two-thirds of all Life on Earth [but] there has been some kind of horrific decline. We appear to be making vast tracts of land inhospitable to most forms of life, and are currently on course for ecological Armageddon. If we lose the insects, then everything is going to collapse.”
The Guardian / ABC Flash Point News 2018.