In the midst of a pandemic, scientists warn this species is at risk of extinction

As the global community comes to terms with the pandemic unfolding before our eyes, an international team of scientists has an ominous warning regarding another major problem on the horizon if action isn’t taken. Humans aren’t the only beings on Earth dealing with a crisis right now. The planet’s insect populations are dropping at a staggering rate, and many are facing extinction.

For most of us, insects and bugs are nothing more than a bother. It feels like these pesky creatures only make their way into our homes and gardens to annoy us. When it comes to the ecological balance of the planet, though, insects are essential. Without the bugs of the world, global crop supplies would disappear and many animals would have no food to eat. The decomposition of bug bodies also contributes greatly to nutrient cycling.

The delicate balance of nature on this planet can be likened to an engine that needs each piece to be in place to function properly. Subtract insects from the equation and the entire Earth will suffer. In many ways, insects are the unsung heroes of our planet. The good they do goes almost entirely unnoticed but without them, food for both humans and animals would be scarce, and the planet would be overrun by decay and rot.

Making matters worse, there are no modern technologies available today capable of filling insects’ role in the ecosystem. We can’t just manufacture our way out of this problem.

Dr. Matt Hill from the University of Huddersfield is just one of 30 scientists from all over the world (Germany, Columbia, South Africa, Finland) that collaborated on these findings.

“Insects provide food for other animals and they can also have a significant role in the functioning of freshwater ecosystems, forming a critical component in the diversity of life,” Dr. Hill explains in a press release.

Numerous insect varieties, from beetles and snails to dragonflies, are in decline all over the world. As far as why insect numbers are dropping so quickly and significantly, the reasons are myriad, but they all have one connecting link: human activity. Pollution, climate change, and the constant destruction of natural habitats are all contributing to the decimation of insect populations. 

The good news is it isn’t too late to reverse course. The research team has put together a nine-point plan that everyone can follow to ensure that insects survive. It probably sounds strange at first, and even if you’re the type of person who won’t hesitate to stomp out a spider in your bedroom or fly in the kitchen, at least consider taking up a few of these suggestions. Your actions could save your grandchildren and great-grandchildren a whole lot of trouble in the future.

Let’s take a look at the scientists’ nine suggestions:

  1. Try not to mow your lawn too often. Many insects use grass as their main food source.
  2. Grow plants that are indigenous to your area. Local plants facilitate a great deal of bug life.
  3. Avoid using pesticides in your backyard. There are plenty of organic alternatives.
  4. Resist the temptation to remove old trees, dead leaves, and stumps from your property. Tons of insects live in those places.
  5. If you’re feeling extra insect-friendly consider building a bug “hotel” by creating small horizontal holes in the ground that can be used as nests.
  6. Reduce your carbon footprint (eat less meat, drive less). 
  7. Contribute to or volunteer with insect conservation organizations.
  8. Don’t introduce foreign animals or plants onto your property that could harm local insect populations.
  9. Be more aware of the insects on your property (look down while you’re walking to the car!)

It’s much easier for people to get on board with efforts to save animals, such as endangered birds or pandas. Insects don’t have the luxury of being cute or cuddly, but they still deserve our help.

Both research pieces can be found here and here, published in Biological Conservation.