Insects are facing a global extinction crisis with most disappearing from the earth at alarming rates, warn biologists. Flying insects have declined 76 percent in 26 years in Germany, while in the UK, the common butterfly population has fallen by 46 percent since 1976, Dave Goulson, professor of the University of Sussex wrote in The Guardian.
Despite efforts by conservationists, 13 bee species in the UK have gone extinct. Rarer butterflies in the UK have gone down by 77 percent. According to the professor, the monarch butterfly population in the US is also down by more than 80 percent since the 1980s. In the west of the Rockies, the monarch population has declined 99.9 percent in the last couple of decades and is likely to become extinct within a year or two.
There are many reasons for the decline of insects, primary being climate change. According to a report by UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Earth is likely to reach the crucial 1.5 degrees Celsius warming limit by the 2030s on the back of a dramatic increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) levels and temperatures. These will directly or indirectly impact the insect population. For example, elevated levels of CO2 can impact an insect’s development and reduce their numbers as seen in dung beetles, reports The Wire Science.
Another study said the steep decline in monarch butterflies in west Rockies could be because of climate change as the numbers dwindled in areas underdeveloped by humans. “Our impacts of carbon usage have now changed the environment so much that those areas are now drier and hotter into the Fall,” Kathleen Prudic, a co-author of the study and an assistant professor at the University of Arizona, told OZY.
The use of pesticides by farmers and gardeners is also another reason for dying insects. Apart from adaptable species like cockroaches, mosquitoes and houseflies, most insects fall victim to the widespread use of pesticides. Also, insects are suffering due to loss of habitat to intensive farming, development of houses and other structures, light pollution and climate crisis.
“We feel helpless in the face of many global environmental problems, but we can all get involved in halting and reversing insect declines,” Goulson wrote.
While the solutions for overarching problems such as climate change require the involvement of governments, individuals can also make a difference by growing private gardens in their backyards, neighbourhoods and communities.
It is also necessary to adopt sustainable farming practices as intensive farming has severely damaged our wildlife and soils and polluted streams and rivers, apart from emitting greenhouse gases.
Reducing meat consumption, buying and eating local, seasonal, organic produce, or growing vegetables and fruits in our own garden are some of the practices that we need to adopt, the article said.
The robust insect population is vital for pollinating our plants, controlling pests, recycling organic material, maintaining soil health and dispersing seeds.
In the past few decades, a number of studies have drawn attention to the threat to insects, often talking of an impending apocalypse of the little creatures.
In January, a series of reports published at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists said in some parts of the Earth insect population drops by a percentage point or two every year. This means in two decades, areas of severe decline could lose about a third of all their insects, the scientists had reported.
“Love them or loathe them, we all need insects. Three-quarters of the crops we grow need pollinators. We have to learn to live in harmony with nature, seeing ourselves as part of it, not trying to rule and control it with an iron fist. Our survival depends upon it, as does that of the glorious pageant of life with which we share our planet,” said Goulson.
(Edited by : Shoma Bhattacharjee)