Of the major threats, habitat loss was cited as the most pressing. Some scientists advocated for more large protected areas, including refugia dedicated to conserving insects in a warming world. Others argued for a transformation of agriculture, making it more “nature friendly,” and requiring reduced, more intelligent, pesticide use. Presently, the Netherlands is a leader in addressing insect decline, with its innovative Delta Plan for Biodiversity Recovery.

Of another threat, global warming, tropical entomologist Daniel Janzen exclaimed: “Turn the f****** climate change around!” Otherwise, insect populations could be decimated. Janzen, who has been studying tropical insects since the 1960s, could be called the Cassandra of Insect Decline, as he’s been warning of the risks longer than nearly anyone. But few have listened — until now.

Underlying all our environmental woes, say some entomologists, is the reality of human overpopulation. The best way to reduce our numbers, they say, is to empower women globally via education and quality health care, including offering access to contraceptives and family planning.

In the end, experts agree that insects can survive without humanity, but humanity likely can’t survive without insects. They tend every square inch of living soil; they aerate and fertilize; they break down waste and organic debris. They also sit at the base of the food chain, feeding millions of animals and, by extension, us.

If an “Insect Apocalypse” is allowed to go forward — annihilating these splendid, beautiful, awe-inspiring, weird, ugly, frightening, funny, sometimes harmful, enriching creatures — it could mean our own demise. In truth, they are nature herself, made manifest in the trillions.

Read the entire series here

Banner image: A mantis nymph found at a seedling nursery outside Gunung Palung National Park in Borneo, Indonesia. Image by Timothy Treuer.

FEEDBACK: Use this form to send a message to the author of this post. If you want to post a public comment, you can do that at the bottom of the page.