By Tova Shmulewitz
As a child, I would point out butterflies and other insects flying around, while simultaneously running away from bees and other imminent “threats” buzzing around my head. But as I aged, my interactions with insects happened less frequently as they once did. This is not because I stopped noticing them as I matured, but because of a serious issue facing the world today.
Insects have slowly been decreasing exponentially over time. Some scientists have called this phenomenon an “insect apocalypse.” According to reports, the Western Bumblebee species has declined by 93% over the past few decades, and 25% of all bee species have disappeared.
Insects may seem annoying to us, but they are vital parts of the food chain and integral to our ecosystem. Insects are at the bottom of the food chain making them a source of nutrition to animals such as fish and birds. They also play a vital role in the pollination of crops and plants. Pollination is essential in maintaining plant life and crop growth. Without food to survive, the birds and fish will not survive which could very realistically lead to major problems for us humans at the top of the food chain. This applies not only to meat-eaters, but also vegetarians and vegans, as insects are also needed for plants and crop growth.
So what is leading to this extinction of insects? Environmental factors such as climate change are often cited as a leading cause of extinction alongside human-caused global warming. Climate change is actually cited as one of the main reasons for the declines. One study has shown that in a forest in New Hampshire, beetles have declined 83% since the late 1970s. The reason for this is due to the steady increase in warm temperatures resulting in a decline of snow during cold seasons. Deforestation, fires, and droughts are other human-caused reasons why insects are going extinct. Another reason for the insect decline is our increased use of pesticides and chemicals which results in habitat changes for the insects. Research has shown that monarch butterflies have been rapidly declining in areas where they usually migrate to during the cold season to stay warm. This is because chemicals have killed off some plants needed for the butterflies’ survival.
There are some things that we are able to do to stop this rapid decline. We need to decrease the use of pesticides and raise awareness about climate change. Helping the environment can help the insects. We all need to do what we can, before this problem becomes a real threat.