Plummeting insect numbers threaten collapse of nature

Exclusive: Insects could vanish within a century at current rate of decline, says global review.

Well I grabbed this one, just for the title, insect extinction threatens the collapse of nature! Wow I thought. And I thought about the insects with which (whom) I’m most familiar, right here on Santiago Street in Tampa Florida. And, placed in order of their threat to me, these are termites, cockroaches, and mosquitoes. I’m sure there are millions, tens of millions of these little creatures here in Tampa, and since I’ve been here, and inspite of “tenting” my home, and innumerable trips to Home Deport to purchase insect sprays, I don’t have the feeling they are any more at risk today than when I came here some 10 years ago. But the article does grab my attention.

And just think what great fun that would be if the 2020 Democratic and Republican candidates for president began to talk about that threat of insect losses. And would there be those among them, Republicans probably, who would reject this threat much as they reject global warming?

Why are insects in decline, and can we do anything about it?

By Damian Carrington.   The Guardian, February 10, 2019

The world’s insects are hurtling down the path to extinction, threatening a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”, according to the first global scientific review.

More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered, the analysis found. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5% a year, according to the best data available, suggesting they could vanish within a century.

The planet is at the start of a sixth mass extinction in its history, with huge losses already reported in larger animals that are easier to study. But insects are by far the most varied and abundant animals, outweighing humanity by 17 times. They are “essential” for the proper functioning of all ecosystems, the researchers say, as food for other creatures, pollinators and recyclers of nutrients.

Insect population collapses have recently been reported in Germany and Puerto Rico, but the review strongly indicates the crisis is global. The researchers set out their conclusions in unusually forceful terms for a peer-reviewed scientific paper: “The [insect] trends confirm that the sixth major extinction event is profoundly impacting [on] life forms on our planet.

“Unless we change our ways of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades,” they write. “The repercussions this will have for the planet’s ecosystems are catastrophic to say the least.”

The analysis, published in the journal Biological Conservation, says intensive agriculture is the main driver of the declines, particularly the heavy use of pesticides. Urbanisation and climate change are also significant factors.


One of the biggest impacts of insect loss is on the many birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish that eat insects. “If this food source is taken away, all these animals starve to death.” Such cascading effects have already been seen in Puerto Rico, where a recent study revealed a 98% fall in ground insects over 35 years.

Butterflies and moths are among the worst hit. For example, the number of widespread butterfly species fell by 58% on farmed land in England between 2000 and 2009. The UK has suffered the biggest recorded insect falls overall, though that is probably a result of being more intensely studied than most places….

OK, I get the writer’s point. Insects are a big part of the sixth major extinction currently taking place on the earth (the others were the first, second… through fifth) although I don’t feel it happening among my insects. OK, once again I’m taken up by the trees and not the forest. Also I forgot to say it, but probably the largest number of insects I encounter on a daily basis just has to be the ants, and they seem to be multiplying without restraint. If I didn’t mention them it’s probably because they mostly stay out of my way, and out of our home.

But I have a couple of questions for the writers of the Guardian article. What is an insect, and why should we regret the deaths of so many insect species that are clearly still today a threat us? Aren’t there good and bad insects? The writer seems to assume that all living things are somehow precious, and that a threat to any one of them is a threat to all of us. Again, termites, cockroaches, and mosquitoes? He may be right. I’m not a scientist.

For what is an insect I go to Google.and from there to where  Debbie Hadley answers our question, What is an Insect?
May 02, 2018

Insects are the largest group in the animal kingdom. Scientists estimate there are over 1 million insect species on the planet, living in every conceivable environment from volcanoes to glaciers.

Insects help us by pollinating our food crops, decomposing organic matter, providing researchers with clues to a cancer cure, and even solving crimes. They can also harm us, such as by spreading diseases and damaging plants and structures.

Insects are classified as arthropods. All animals in the phylum Arthropoda have exoskeletons, segmented bodies, and at least three pairs of legs. Other classes that belong to the phylum Arthropoda include: Arachnida (spiders), Diplopoda (millipedes) and Chilopoda (centipedes). The class Insecta encompasses all of the insects on the earth. It is most often divided into 29 orders….

And I leave you with just one example of just how precious insects, or some insects, are at least to me:


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