The last 27 years have experienced a shocking 75% decrease in the number of flying insects, including the dragonfly, according to a recent German study published in the science journal PLOS ONE, and the disappearance of butterflies, moths, bees, and dragonflies cannot be explained by weather changes, particular habitats, or land use. Speculation points to widespread use of pesticides, such as the ubiquitous herbicide, Glyphosate, invented and manufactured by Bayer-Monsanto.
In the nature reserves and protected areas of western Germany, a very large group of scientists from the Entomological Society of Krefeld have been collecting insects to count and measure their health, since 1989.
According to lead author of the new study, Caspar Hallmann, ecologist at Radboud University of the Netherlands, “We seem to have lost over three-quarters of the insect biomass in less than three decades. This is very alarming! And what’s more, this is in nature reserves that are meant to protect wildlife, biodiversity, and ecosystem services.”
Finding 75% fewer insects in a protected natural habitat means that the cause is not in the nature preserve, it is in the environment generally. If they are not inside the preserve, they are not outside it either.
In fact, the absence of insects has been observed far beyond the nature preserves surveyed for this long-term study. Insects are missing in forest, pond, field, and shoreline, on roadsides, in parks, and on farms. But until last year’s publication of this disturbing evidence, we did not know that this alarming extinction exists throughout the world.
For the last decade, there have been countless reports of the decreasing numbers of Monarch Butterflies and bumblebees. But just as key in the insect biomass is the fig wasp, the common moth, and the fly—all links up and down the food chain of the Animal Kingdom.
More than half of all species of birds and bats rely on insects for food. Almost all—around 80 percent— of wild plants depend on insects for pollination. As they disappear into extinction, ecosystems everywhere will cascade into collapse.
Pollination of plants is not the only role of insects in the web of life, though human food supply depends on it. They are the food supply for frogs and toads, snakes and many fish, the producers of honey, and the cleaning crew of the forest floor. Insects are the lynchpins of virtually all ecosystems—the fulcrum around which the entire Animal Kingdom turns, and that Kingdom includes us.
The implication of this empirical study of the fate of insects should raise alarms everywhere. Since they are the most diverse and numerous group of animals on the planet, if they are in trouble, we are all in trouble.
This study is the canary in the coal mine.
Publisher’s Note: Judith Stapleton is a writer in the fields of science and medicine.