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Insect mortality: Small creatures that leave large gaps

Gepostet am 08 Mai 2020

They crawl on the ground, move in the water or buzz through the air. Trillions of them live almost unnoticed below us. But once they are gone, we notice the enormous loss. Insect mortality: a serious problem with drastic consequences.

Insects

Insects are the most species-rich and numerous inhabitants of our planet. More than one million species of insects inhabit the earth together with us – and they make up about two thirds of all species! The tiniest of them are barely a millimetre in size, the longest measure just over half a metre. The insect world includes inconspicuous specimens as well as enchantingly beautiful ones, such as butterflies, but also less likeable representatives such as the marbled tree bug, which is spreading across Europe and has no predators here. Insects are herbivores or extremely good hunters – whether they spin webs or attack their prey in a flash, as praying mantises do, makes little difference.

Apart from loners, there are many state-forming insects with complex social structures that we still do not fully understand. These include ants, but also wasps or bees. We hardly notice most insects unless we "use" them, as in the case of commercially kept bee colonies. Therefore, it has taken far too long for the dramatic decline of the insect world to reach public awareness.

Because the insect population is declining. In Germany, for example, three quarters (!) of the insect biomass has disappeared in the last 25 years. Entire species are highly endangered – including many butterflies and wild bees. Insect extinction is in full swing.

What is insect mortality?

Organizations such as the WWF or the Naturschutz Bund have been drawing attention to the decline in the number of six-legged fellow inhabitants for some time now. Because insect mortality has consequences for us all. On the one hand, insects are pollinators without whom agriculture cannot survive, but they are also an important part of the biosphere, as they remove decaying plants and carrion and loosen up the soil. At least as important is the fact that there are animal species, especially bird species, which will also become extinct when the insects disappear. It is worrying that the extinction of insects affects ALL species. The reasons are easy to identify.

What causes insect death?

Long-term studies have shown that there is a direct link between land or forest use and insect mortality. Heavily farmed, fertilized and pesticide- or herbicide-treated areas mean death – especially for insects that do not cover long distances. The "couch potatoes" also suffer when they are able to colonise a relatively untouched area in the middle of heavily used cultivated land.

Insects lack places of retreat everywhere: fallow land, meadows with wildflowers or simply the field margins as they used to be known, hedges and orchard meadows allow insects to find places and food. Industrial mowing, possibly simultaneously on huge areas, contributes to mass mortality. Apart from insects, small mammals and birds are also among the victims. 

Flowers

Our cities are hostile to life – especially for insects

Death awaits most insects also in urban areas. Sealed floors, gardens with imported plant species that do not provide the insects with food, unused meadows or open water surfaces – and above all, constant lighting! The light sources disturb the rhythm of life of the insects, make them fly around until they are exhausted or are so hot that the small creatures burn to death.

Why are insects so important?

We literally cannot afford to do without insects. As pollinators in agriculture alone, insects provide a service every year that amounts to more than 14 billion euros for Europe alone! Without insects or insect diversity, we too are at a disadvantage. Not only would we have to do without fruit or vegetables, many flowering plants and trees also depend on the "work performance" of insects – entire biotopes would become impoverished, and the complex logistics of the food chain would also collapse. This is because numerous bird and fish species feed on insects.

Need for action on insect protection

The extent to which agriculture contributes to insect mortality can be seen in the example of Germany. But it is almost impossible to deprive farmers of their livelihood. Therefore, any strategy to save the insects has to be applied to the farmers. The German Farmers' Association itself is counting on the establishment of flowering and fallow strips. But the use of insecticides and herbicides must also be further restricted as quickly as possible. While in France the highly toxic neonicotinoids have already been banned, in Germany there is still a dispute about glyphosate, a poison that not only kills animals and plants, but also people insidiously. However, experts admit that a ban alone is not enough. There is a fear that farmers will then have to resort to the poison cabinet – and to possibly more dangerous substances.

Insects

First steps are already being taken

There are already isolated approaches to protect biodiversity and thus also insects. Swiss farmers have understood that biodiversity also offers protection against diseases and pests. Prudent agriculture can promote biodiversity by opening up areas and cultivating numerous species. This approach stands in the way of industrialised agriculture with its exploited soils and streamlined, species-poor livestock. However, the advocates of sustainable agriculture are successful, and their numbers are growing.

Each of us can make a contribution

Although we at NIKIN are primarily concerned with sustainable materials from the fashion industry and fight against global deforestation, it is important to think sustainably in other areas of life as well. We want to motivate people to rethink their lifestyle and possibly make it more sustainable.

In our blogs, however, we not only talk about the above-mentioned topics, but also about various other interesting aspects of nature – in this blog we talk about the global insect extinction. With minimal changes in our living and consumption habits and more mindfulness, we can all help to protect the insects that are so important to us in the way they deserve, and we need!

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