Scientists decry death by 1,000 cuts for world’s insects

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The world’s vital insect kingdom is undergoing “death by a thousand cuts,” the world’s top bug experts said.

Climate change, insecticides, herbicides, light pollution, invasive species and changes in agriculture and land use are causing Earth to lose probably 1% to 2% of its insects each year, said University of Connecticut entomologist David Wagner, lead author in the special package of 12 studies in Monday’s Monarch butterflies—best illustrate insect problems and declines, he said. Honeybees have been in dramatic decline because of disease, parasites, insecticides, herbicides and lack of food.

Climate change-driven drier weather in the U.S. West means less milkweed for butterflies to eat, Wagner said. And changes in American agriculture remove weeds and flowers they need for nectar.

“We’re creating a giant biological desert except for soybeans and corn in a giant area of the Midwest,” he said.

Monday’s scientific papers don’t provide new data, yet show a big but incomplete picture of a problem starting to get attention. Scientists have identified 1 million insect species, while probably 4 million more are still to be discovered, Berenbaum said.

University of Delaware entomologist Doug Tallamy, who wasn’t part of the studies, said they highlight how the world has “spent the last 30 years spending billions of dollars finding new ways to kill insects and mere pennies working to preserve them.”

“The good news is, with the exception of climate change, individuals can do much to reverse insect declines,” Tallamy said in an email. “This is a global problem with a grassroots solution.”


Bye bye bugs? Scientists fear non-pest insects are declining


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