If you’ve been paying attention, it’s impossible not to have noticed one stark change in the environment over the past couple of decades: the drastic loss in insect life. Despite not really reading anything on the subject, I had my suspicions that something was wrong as far back as 2009, but with recent reports coming out that paint a devastating picture of our environment, it can no longer be denied. Insects the world over are vanishing.
So what is happening, why are bugs of all kinds dying out?
There are most likely a lot of factors at work. Habitat loss, over-abundance of pesticides being used in commercial farming, chemicals in the air. All of these factors combine to form an all-out attack on the more delicate, smaller lifeforms on Earth. Much like the delicate balance that exists in the ocean, there exists an “element soup” above ground too, and it had remained pretty much the same for millions of years.
That balance has since been destroyed.
Bumble Bees and Ladybugs: Missing in Action
When I was a kid, you couldn’t escape bumble bees and ladybugs. They were universal denizens of summer. They were everywhere, along with any number of other miscellaneous insect critters. I think bumble bees and ladybugs come to mind though because they are colorful and not considered pests.
It would stand to reason that if we were treating the environment correctly, that there would be more of these helpful bugs than ever. But the truth is, these insects have been vanishing along the Eastern coastal regions of the United States and beyond. In fact, there are entire organizations dedicated to ladybug preservation now, because their populations are in freefall.
We have no idea what is truly required for these insects to live happy and healthy lives. For too long we just assumed that we could destroy huge swaths of the environment and replace it with farmland and cities, and these creatures would remain unfazed. We look around at “the outdoors” and think, it’s all the same. Right? Why can’t a ladybug just hang out in another part of the woods and thrive?
Sadly, it doesn’t work this way. As more and more Americans use weed killers, for instance, we could be inadvertently destroying plants that ladybugs and bumble bees use for shelter, food, reproduction behaviors, or who knows what else. That’s just the thing: we know too little about these complex animals to be making judgments about them and assuming that they’ll always be around no matter what we do. The evidence shows the opposite: they are dying.
Weed killing is a big pet peeve of mine, personally. Think of clover, for instance. Many people consider it a weed and have no problem with wantonly destroying it with poison all for the sake of a “nice looking lawn.” Yet, clover is a plant bumble bees love. By killing weeds, we are destroying the food supply of an innocent creature that relies on it, which is lending to the overall destruction of our ecosystem, and by proxy, the environment at large.
These actions that we take for granted as typical suburban living are extremely harmful to the environment at large. One single action in and of itself is not that dangerous but when you take in the totality of what is happening around the globe, these actions become compounded.
Scientists now predict we’re only about 10 years out from irreversible cataclysmic damage to the environment, but these kinds of numbers are rarely taken from an holistic perspective.
Poisoning the Environment for a “Nice Lawn”
Pesticides aren’t the only toxic substance coating your garden and yard. Herbicides are another chemical substance that needs to get more attention so people understand the ramifications of their actions. We’re literally destroying the habit of helpful insect species for the sake of suburban lawns.
Herbicides are indeed harmful to insects, as well as pets. Anything specifically designed in a lab to kill living creatures, plant or animal, is dangerous and should not be so commercially available. By breaking down the foundation of the ecosystem (small insects, weeds) we are pushing along our own destruction.
Sounds dramatic, right? What is the harm in having a “nice lawn?”
It’s artificial, that’s the problem. You might personally believe that a dandelion is a “weed,” but technically speaking, there’s no such thing as a bad plant. A dandelion isn’t at fault for growing on your lawn. That’s what it’s supposed to do. That’s what is natural.
Instead, people deem them harmful to their neighborhood aesthetic and would rather use toxic chemicals to eradicate them. Yet, insects rely on these plants. It is the same with clover and other plants considered weeds. Animals eat this stuff. They use it for nesting material. They feed it to their young. They live on it and in it.
Is a nice lawn worth contributing to environmental deterioration?
If it’s something you absolutely have to have, investigate holistic methods of weed killing. Use aromatherapy to deter insects rather than kill them. There are gentler, saner ways of dealing with these issues rather than aggressively laying down poison right where your children, pets, and local squirrels and birds walk and play.
Why Are Bugs Important?
We have to get out of this mindset where things are only important relative to how useful they are to human beings. Insects, in all their varied forms, are only a piece of a larger ecological puzzle, but they are every bit as important as anything else. They are their own creatures and have found their niche in the web of life.
That being said, insects do play a major role in the health of the environment as it relates to us. They are one of the foundations, after all, of the entire ecosystem.
Without insects, several important foods disappear. Many larger animals that feed on insects would lose their primary food source and die. This is partially the reason why bats and frogs are already starting to vanish. The once abundant mayflies, dragonflies, moths, and beetles are all gone: and that means no food for our frog and bat friends.
Our actions have consequences. The seemingly smallest actions, like taming your lawn with a toxic weed killer, reverberates and has side effects throughout the environment. Climate change is snowballing because the environment is being assaulted on multiple fronts. It’s not just smog from factories, it’s cars and planes. It’s not just cars and planes, it’s factory farming. It’s not just factory farming, it’s the oil industry. It’s not just that either, it’s waste dumping, plastics leeching into the soil, weed killers, fracking, mass animal breeding, and deforestation.
The important thing to remember is, we can walk and chew gum at the same time. Yes, we can make a difference on multiple fronts. Don’t think you can’t make a difference because you can “only” drive a hybrid car or go vegan. You can install solar panels, stop spraying pesticides and herbicides, leave patches of your backyard “wild” for insects to thrive in, demand more from your local representatives, switch your web hosting to run on clean energy, start biking more, or become part of a greening project.
Bugs are important because they are a part of the same tapestry of life that sustains us. Everything is connected. There is no fantasy world where ladybugs die out but nothing else gets affected. That scenario doesn’t exist.
Frogs disappearing, bumblebees disappearing, habitats vanishing, species going extinct: you should take this all as a personal attack. You and the environment that keeps you alive, feeds you, and to which you will eventually return, is being attacked by greedy industries, terrible societal practices, and ignorance. We all have to take it upon ourselves to buck the system and protect the environment, right down to the last insect.
BREAKING: Wild animal population on Earth fell 60% in 44 years, WWF says – AFP
— BNO News (@BNONews) October 30, 2018
The planet is suffering because of our actions, and ignoring the problem or trying to make excuses is not going to solve anything.
It all starts with our actions though. These changes happening to the environment aren’t just going to reverse themselves.
Individuals have to take a stand against pesticide corporations, bad farming practices, animal exploitation, deforestation, and pollution. Otherwise the consequences we’re going to face will be disastrous, to say nothing of what it means for the insect species that are vanishing.
We are a part of the ecosystem, whether we want to admit it or not, and our actions do have an influence on everything around us.
Make better decisions.