Some people over a certain age remember the bug protectors you needed for your car
to keep dead insects from clogging the radiator. Anyone over the age of 55 can tell
you about stopping multiple times during a long-distance trip to scrub the dead bugs from your windshield. At night, it was a real problem. The thick smear of squashed bugs made it nearly impossible to see clearly when meeting the headlights of another vehicle. Today, we don’t have that problem, and that’s a problem.
Understandably, it’s not easy to do accurate bug counts, but some researchers are trying
and what they’ve discovered is concerning. Some studies suggest a decline of 80% in
insect populations. This does not apply to all insects (like the wood tick, the bed bug or the mosquito) and it does not apply equally to all areas, but scientists agree that insects are in very serious trouble and that human activities are to blame.
This should worry us because, without insects, everything collapses. Insects perform vital functions. They are decomposers, ecosystem regulators, tourist attractions and some of them have important medical and research applications. They are food for many of the birds we love. They also keep the plants and trees alive that absorb some of the carbon we are producing. Spiders are important for pest control. Most importantly, insects are pollinators. At least 75% of the food we consume is affected by insect pollinators.
Several causes have been identified as reasons for this dramatic decline in insect
populations. Climate change and pathogens are hitting bees hard. Pesticides, herbicides and modern farming practices are making life difficult for pollinators and all insects. Lawns are described as an ecological disaster because of the impact they have on insects. Light pollution is decimating moth and firefly populations. And of course, loss of habitat is one of the main reasons we are losing insects.
Scientists warn us to not wait until it is too late to act and they suggest things we can do. One thing you can do is give your lawn back, or at least part of it, to the insects and birds. Don’t mow it, don’t plant nonnative plants and above all, don’t use chemicals. Don’t clean it in the fall because the dead leaves and branches provide shelter for insects in the winter. You can also buy organic and non-GMO produce to help reduce the amount of chemicals to which insects are exposed. Turn out the lights to reduce light pollution. Lobby your local government and community to do as much as they can. And consider helping us in our mission to rewild land that will provide a safe habitat for all wildlife, especially insects. Right now insects need a little help and we would be wise to give them this help because, in the end, we need them more than they need us.