(Beyond pesticidesMay 17, 2022) As the public becomes more aware of an ongoing “bug apocalypse”, one of the first anecdotes people often notice is the fewer bugs found on the bumper. breeze from their car than in the past. In a recent survey, conservation groups in Britain are finding evidence of insect decline in exactly this location, providing scientific support for these worrying suspicions. Between 2004 and 2021, 58.5% fewer flying insects were squashed on car license plates. “The results of the Bugs Matter study should shock and worry us all,” says Paul Hadaway, director of conservation at the Kent Wildlife Trust, who conducted the study alongside UK organization Buglife. “We are seeing a decline in insects that reflects the huge threats and loss of wildlife more broadly across the country. These declines are occurring at an alarming rate and without concerted action to address them, we face a bleak future. Insects and pollinators are essential to the health of our environment and rural economies.
The survey was conducted primarily through citizen science, using the ‘Bugs Matter’ mobile app and a sampling grid, called a ‘splatometer’, affixed to the vehicle’s license plate. ‘a car. Data was extracted from trips taken by citizen scientists between June 1 and August 31 in 2004 and 2021. Locations and trip distance were noted in 2004, but automatically tracked via the app in 2021. Speed travel was generally less than 30 miles per hour, and trip length averaged 16 to 36 miles.
Analysis of the survey results determined an insect splatter rate of 0.238 per mile in 2004, but only 0.104 per mile in 2021. During this period, the odds of taking a trip and not see no crushed insects on his license plate increased by 2.9. time. Differences have been observed between different regions of the UK. Scotland saw the smallest drop, at 28%, which could be attributed to the region having more wild land and fewer farms and towns. England, on the other hand, saw the biggest declines, at 65%, while whales saw losses of 55%. (Data was not available for Northern Ireland).
These findings align with the latest insect apocalypse data from the peer-reviewed scientific literature. Posted in Nature, a recent study found that in the context of climate change, low-intensity agriculture and large natural habitats offered the best chance of reducing insect losses. The more wilderness there is around their farmland, the better off the insects should be. The difference between the results observed in Scotland and England corresponds well to this modelling.
“This vital study suggests that the number of flying insects is declining by an average of 34% per decade, it’s terrifying,” said Matt Shardlow, CEO of Buglife. “We can delay action no longer, for the health and well-being of future generations this demands a political and societal response, it is essential that we halt the decline in biodiversity – now!”
Research published in 2017 raised a major wake-up call for insect populations around the world, finding that in German nature reserves, 75% of flying insect biomass had been lost. A systematic review of studies on declining insect populations subsequently published in 2019 determined that 41% of insect species worldwide are in decline. The decline of butterflies, wild bumblebees and honey bees is specifically linked to the use of dangerous pesticides in industrial agricultural systems. Worldwide, about a quarter of the world’s insect population has disappeared since 1990, according to a study published in Science. This research reveals that global trends in terrestrial insect biomass decline are nearly 1% each year (~9% each decade).
As a 2019 review concluded, “we know enough to act now.” Data around the world continues to align with the anecdotal experiences of people seeing fewer and fewer insects as the years go by. If we don’t act quickly, ecological amnesia will set in, as subsequent generations will perceive the environment they were born into as the norm.
Consider the decline of insects in the context of efforts to stop the deaths of eagles, hawks, condors and other birds of prey in the 1960s widespread use of DDT. Field observations of broken eggs in peregrine falcon nests in Britain in the late 1960s led to population surveys. In the United States, most long-standing hawk nests have been found deserted. The massive increase in pesticide use after World War II was suspected to be the cause, and it was confirmed that as DDT bioconcentrates in the food chain, it is believed to be contained in eggshells. DDT concentrations in eggshells were correlated at the latching stage with the thinness of an eggshell, scientifically confirming the problem.
With pollinators and the wider insect world, we are at a similar time. We know that industrial agriculture and its use of hazardous pesticides, especially systemic insecticides like the neonicotinoid class, are harming insect life and biodiversity worldwide. The scientific data is now so sophisticated that we can provide year-by-year and decade-by-decade models of past and future insect decline.
It took 10 years after Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring for DDT to be banned. Yet it took decades for populations of birds of prey to rebound. On the east coast, local populations of peregrine falcons disappeared and had to be reintroduced over the following decades. It wasn’t until 1999 that populations have recovered enough to remove the birds from the endangered species list. Bald eagles were only removed from endangered status in 2007. It was early May that wildlife officials and the Yurok Tribe were able to reintroduce California condors to Northern California.
How many readers have anecdotally noticed more birds of prey in their area, but fewer pollinators and other insects?
The lag between precipitous declines and species recovery often lasts for decades. While we applaud the return of the birds of prey, we must also lament the years lost without them unnecessarily and short-sightedly, and be mindful of the continuing damage the use of chemicals is causing to the animals that form the basis of all chains ecological food. The work to ensure that future generations can experience a world where “the bees return” must begin now.
For more information on ongoing insect decline, see Beyond Pesticides Biodiversity Tracking: Study Cites Insect Extinction and Ecological Collapse. See here for more resources to engage and collect crucial ecological information through citizen science projects.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this article are those of Beyond Pesticides.