Small Things Considered

According to a new report coming from a group of UK Wildlife Trusts, declines in insect numbers are set to have drastic and far-reaching consequences for the health of both wildlife and human life. 

The report entitled Insect Declines and Why They Matter, blames pesticides as the leading cause of a dramatic decline in the global insect population that now threatens life on Earth as we know it.

According to the report:

“Insects make up the bulk of known species on earth and are integral to the functioning of terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems, performing vital roles such as pollination, seed dispersal and nutrient cycling. They are also food for numerous larger animals, including birds, bats, fish, amphibians and lizards. If we don’t stop the decline of our insects there will be profound consequences for all life on earth.

And it’s not just our wild bees and pollinators that are declining – these trends are mirrored across a great many of other invertebrate species. Of serious concern is the little we know about the fate of many of the more obscure invertebrates that are also crucial to healthy ecosystems.

What we do know however is that the main causes of decline include habitat loss and fragmentation, and the overuse of pesticides. Wild insects are routinely exposed to complex cocktails of toxins which can cause either death or disorientation and weakened immune and digestive systems.”

The report concludes: “The consequences are clear; if insect declines are not halted, terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems will collapse, with profound consequences for human well being.”

Though uch of the pesticide problem is associated with intensive industrial farming, the report also highlights the destructive cimpact domestic usage, where numerous insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides are still purchased from garden centers, DIY stores, and even supermarkets. Gardens, parks, urban areas and farmed countryside all needs to be managed in a more insect-friendly way. This imandates a major reduction in the amount, type, and frequency of pesticide use.

As dire as the situation is there still remains a small measure of hope. As this report clearly highlights, the main causes of insect declines are now known and we are able to adress them. Insects and other invertebrates can still recover if we simply stop killing them and restore the habitats they require in orser to thrive. To accomplish this feat we must take immediate and collective action in our local gardens, parks, farms, and places of work. Reducing pesticide use is a challenge that our society can no longer ignore. We need to set an ambitious pesticide-reduction target and provide assistance and incentives for small farmers to transition to non-chemical alternatives in pest control.