Notice anything odd about this summer? Yes, it was hot and dry. But that is not what has worried me most about this summer. Not long ago a walk in the countryside in August would be a battle to keep the bugs at bay. Much arm waving on calm days and often walkers gave up until the autumn months when it was cooler and less bug infested. Car journeys resulted in a session of cleaning the little mites off the windscreen and the front of the car. That has not been the situation this year. The bugs are disappearing and we should be worried.
The data supports this anecdotal impression. Numbers are down 75%. Insects are an prey for other wildlife and it was known that some species life on Earth as both pollinators and such as butterflies were declining. But the newly revealed scale of the losses to all insects has prompted warnings that the world is “on course for ecological Armageddon”, with profound impacts on human society.
The cause of the huge decline is unclear, although the destruction of wild areas and widespread use of pesticides are the most likely factors and climate change may play a role. The scientists were able to rule out weather and changes to landscape in the reserves as causes, but data on pesticide levels has not been collected.
“The fact that the number of flying insects is decreasing at such a high rate in such a large area is an alarming discovery,” said Hans de Kroon, at University in the Netherlands and who led the new research.
“Insects make up about two-thirds of all life on Earth [but] there has been some kind of horrific decline,” said Prof. Dave of Sussex University, UK, and part of the team behind the new study. “We appear to be making vast tracts of land inhospitable to most forms of life, and are currently on course for ecological Armageddon. If we lose the insects then everything is going to collapse.”