Insects are the most abundant animal group on the planet. To give you an idea of just how many insects are crawling about, there are roughly 5,500 identified mammals on Earth versus 1,000,000 identified insects. That’s 180 times more insects than mammals, a nightmare for those of us who find bugs unbearably creepy, but an invaluable resource for the planet that depends on them for maintaining well-balanced ecosystems. Insects’ vital role on our planet isn’t going away any time soon, but the alarming reality is that they are.
Their population is decreasing at a shocking rate.
Studies suggest that the overall insect population is in decline by 40%. This might not sound so bad if you’re someone who feels at war with the roaches, mosquitos, or ants that sneak into your house. You might even think that the world would be better off with fewer pests, but the importance of insects on our planet should not be overlooked.
Insects play several invaluable roles such as pollinators, waste disposers, nutrient recyclers, and of course are a food source for countless other animals. Without insects, there would be essentially no food and entire ecosystems would collapse. Not only are insects food for birds, mammals, fish, and reptiles, humans also rely on them to pollinate flowering crops so that there are fruits and vegetables to eat.
You may not realize it, but us humans rely on insects for pretty much everything.
If humans were to suddenly disappear, biologist Edward O. Wilson has famously observed, the Earth would “regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed 10,000 years ago.” But “if insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos,” Kolbert said in an interview with National Geographic.
We’re killing insects of all kinds – not just the ones we consider pests.
Ironically enough, one of the main reasons insects might be heading toward extinction is that we are killing not only pests but also the pollinators that many plants rely on as we try to maintain our intensive agricultural practices.
Pesticides and habitat loss due to farming are killing off insects at an unprecedented rate. Urbanization, light pollution, and extreme weather due to climate change are other threats to the declining insect population. “Human activity is responsible for almost all insect population declines and extinctions,” Pedro Cardoso, the study’s lead author, told AFP.
But it’s not too late for us to do something about it.
If you want to keep eating your fruits and veggies and live in a world where nature isn’t hurtling towards complete chaos, then big changes need to be made on the climate crisis and agricultural front.
If you want to take action in your own home, try re-wilding your garden and include plants that your local backyard bugs love. Throw out pesticides and seek natural pest control alternatives. “Unless we change our ways of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades,” says the first global scientific review.