Insect populations plummet in the U.S. as pesticide use drastically increases

The insect apocalypse is upon us, and it’s the widespread use of pesticides that is to blame, posing a serious threat to ecosystems, the food supply and our own survival.

For some time now, experts have been warning us about the mass decline of insects that threatens wildlife and humans.

Most people may overtake the trillions of tiny creatures that share the world with us thinking that they really don’t matter, but the fact is that insects play a major role in our world. They pollinate plants, many of which produce foods we eat. They clean up dead animals and plants. They are one of the key components of the food chain and are even part of the human diet.

According to Norwegian University of Life Sciences professor Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson:

“Insects are the glue in nature and there is no doubt that both the [numbers] and diversity of insects are declining. At some stage the whole fabric unravels and then we will really see the consequences. Global data suggests that while we humans have doubled our population in the past 40 years, the number of insects has been reduced by almost half – these are dramatic figures.”

Indeed, and the loss of insects is tied directly to the overuse of pesticides, which has only been increasing in the United States in recent years.

“It is alarming that U.S. agriculture has become so much more toxic to insect life in the past two decades,” Friends of the Earth senior scientist Kendra Klein said in a statement. “We need to phase out neonicotinoid pesticides to protect bees and other insects that are critical to biodiversity and the farms that feed us.”

The Environmental Protection Agency has already banned 12 pesticides linked to bee deaths, but it’s clearly not enough.

And it turns out there’s a bill in Congress that could do a whole lot more to not only save bees but all insects.

“Congress must pass the Saving America’s Pollinators Act to ban neonicotinoids,” Klein said. “In addition, we need to rapidly shift our food system away from dependence on harmful pesticides and toward organic farming methods that work with nature rather than against it.”

Stonyfield Organic farms have plenty of suggestions to avoid using pesticides.

To help the plants most appetizing to insects, we do our best to lay out floating row cover immediately after transplanting or direct seeding, so they have physical protection from the start to keep the bugs off. Under protection, the plants are free to grow and can be uncovered once they are strong enough to survive…it’s important to move second successions of crops away from their first plantings, so that they are simply harder for the pests to find. Having a dependable pest identification book has helped us understand the insect world. With better bug knowledge, we’re better able to stop any damage before it gets worse and also to identify any pest-eating bugs helping us out. In terms of control, if we find pests in our plants already we may squish them by hand or exclude the affected plants from row cover and remove those plants (and feed them to the cows). At time we spray soap or neem oil.

Stonyfield is able to “provide full weekly vegetable shares to 60 families” and take part in the local farmer’s market, so their methods are capable of growing produce without pesticides. If they can do it, so can other farms.

“We have four decades of research and evidence that agroecological farming methods can grow our food without decimating pollinators,” Klein said.

And big agriculture’s reliance on pesticides in 120 countries must come to a swift end, not just to save insects, but to save birds as well because insect loss is directly related to the rapid decline of the bird population, which relies on insects as a food source.

Birds and insects both play integral roles in our environment and the food chain. Without them, we will witness our food supply dwindle, resulting in worldwide hunger on a scale we have never witnessed.

Ecosystems will collapse and our world won’t nearly look or sound as beautiful because flowers won’t be pollinated and birdsong will cease.

Insects may be small, but they are not insignificant. If we want to save our planet and ourselves, we need to save them, too.

Featured Image: Wikimedia

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Stephen D. Foster Jr.

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