By: Meteorologist Megan Mulford
Updated: Mar 27th 2019

Wildlife Wednesdays: Insects on the Decline

Some insects can be "pests" and others can ruin a nice picnic in the park. A new report published in the journal of Biological Conservation indicates that the world's insects are on a sharp decline. This may sound good, but if the insects go, then it's very bad news for the rest of us.

The report concluded that up to 40% of the world's insect species could face extinction just in a matter of decades! As of now, a third of insects are already endangered! This is very scary news, because insects make up two-thirds of all land-dwelling species on the planet; a good portion of them are pollinators, which is essential in the ecosystem. According to report author Francisco Sanchez-Bayo at the University of Sydney, he said "if insects species losses cannot be halted, this will have catastrophic consequences for both the planet's ecosystems and for the survival of mankind." He also mentioned that in the last 25-30 years, there has been a 2.5% annual loss of insects. In 10 years, it will be 25% less, then in 50 years, only half of the insects would be left. If the trend continues in the next 100 years, we could have no insects left.

So what is causing for the sharp decline of insects?  Two major problems exist: the intensification of agriculture over the past decades, and climate change. Other factors also includes pollution and the destruction of habitat. Agriculture is very important and is a significant contributor to the U.S. economy. The main culprit, though, is the use of pesticides. These are intense chemicals used to treat crops to keep bugs away. Less bugs means more crops, which leads to more money. Researchers urge for a global "rethinking of current agricultural practices" when it comes to pesticides, to help with the decline of bugs. 

As mentioned, climate change is a big factor and makes up 7% of the studies in regards to declining insects. The report notes how increasing global temperatures have already reduced several numbers of insects. This includes dragonflies, stone flies, and bumblebees. As temperatures continue to warm, this will affect more and more species, especially those in the tropical climate. Researchers also note that out of 773 species of day-flying moths and butterflies, up to 85% have experienced a decline since the 1980s. Honeybees and wild bees are also on the decline as well. 

The rate of extinction for insects is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds, and reptiles. If nothing is done to help the insects, like cutting back on pollution, pesticides, and helping to combat climate change, there could be a major extinction event within decades.
Insects, such as honeybees, are on a sharp decline.
Butterflies have had a rapid decrease since the 1980s.