Dire Report Warns That The Insect Apocalypse Is Upon Us

Of all the creatures on this planet that one would not expect would go extinct, insects rank at the top of the list, but a dire new report reveals that insect populations have plummeted and we face severe consequences if we don’t immediately act to help them recover.

As climate change continues to worsen and millions of animal and plant species face extinction, human activities have also taken a toll on the millions of insect species, including bees, butterflies and others that we rely on every day.

In a new report by Somerset Wildlife Trusts in the United Kingdom, approximately half of all insects have been lost since 1970, when the use of pesticides increased.

“We can’t be sure, but in terms of numbers, we may have lost 50 percent or more of our insects since 1970 – it could be much more,” University of Sussex biology professor Dave Goulson explained. “We just don’t know, which is scary. If we don’t stop the decline of our insects there will be profound consequences for all life on earth [and] for human wellbeing.”

And 41 percent of insects now face extinction today as pesticide use continues and habitat loss increases.

It’s just an absolutely stunning number. And if you don’t think insect extinction is important, think again, especially the next time you are eating.

“If these massive declines continue, the ramifications are enormous,” Gouson said. “Three-quarters of our crops depend on insect pollinators. Crops will begin to fail. We won’t have things like strawberries. We can’t feed 7.5 billion people without insects.”

Indeed, we currently produce enough food to feed 10 billion people, but even some meats will be scarcer because crops are required to produce the grains used to make feeds for cows and pigs. So, it’s not just humans who will starve, but many other animals as well.

Again, much of this decline is directly linked to pesticides, which are being used far too much by the agriculture industry. Those chemicals are responsible for the decline of bees, an insect critical to pollination in food production.

The use of pesticides is so rampant, in fact, that insects are now more diverse in urban areas than in rural areas.

“The sad fact is there’s actually a lot more biodiversity in insect life in urban areas than rural areas and that’s down to the use of pesticides, which cause a loss of habitat to insects in the countryside,” Buglife charity’s Paul Hetherington told BBC. “So if you can get food that doesn’t involve pesticides, it’s really good.”

The report, however, does go on to stress that we still have time to reverse these losses. We just have to apply some of the solutions they suggest to achieve this goal, including planting pollinator-friendly flowers, re-establishing habitats and creating new ones. Fighting climate change would also help. But it really falls upon the shoulders of farmers to lead the way by no longer using pesticides.

“Insects live in our parks and gardens. Gardeners can really make a difference,” Goulson said. “The bigger challenge is making farming more wildlife-friendly. Pesticide reduction targets. That would help enormously.”

We may think of many insects as pests, but the bottom line is that we need them to survive. Pesticide use over decades has wiped out many insect populations and the numbers will only continue to drop drastically if it is not stopped. It’s time for governments around the globe to step up because saving the insects ultimately means saving ourselves.

Featured Image: Wikimedia

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Stephen D. Foster Jr.

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