Protecting insect habitats is saving multitudes

Image of American burying beetle being held in hands.

(Reasons to be Cheerful) Over the past couple of months, construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline has faced two legal challenges. One is from a Native American tribe concerned that pipeline workers might spread the coronavirus to their communities. The other is driven, in part, by an inch-long beetle. A colorful scavenger of grasslands and forest understories, the American burying beetle is an endangered species, and on April 15, a federal judge in Montana ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers, in its haste to build the pipeline, had violated the insect’s protected status. The Endangered Species Act has been a conservation triumph for numerous species, including insects.

Agroforestry is ‘win win’ for bees and crops

Image of trees in the woods.

(EurekAlert/University of Reading) A new study provides observed evidence that Planting woody plant species alongside crops can increase wild insect pollinator numbers and increases pollination. Researchers found agroforestry sites had double the number of solitary bees and hoverflies, and in arable agroforestry sites there were 2.4 times more bumblebees than in those with just one kind of crop.

Temperate insects as vulnerable to climate change as tropical species

Image of insect hotel and garden.

(ScienceDaily/Uppsala University) In previous research, it has been assumed that insects in temperate regions would cope well with or even benefit from a warmer climate. Not so, according to researchers. The earlier models failed to take into account the fact that insects in temperate habitats are inactive for much of the year.

A downward spiral for insects

Illustration of different insects.

(National Wildlife Federation) Monarch butterflies west of the Rocky Mountains have declined to less than 1 percent of their historic numbers. Over a quarter of North America’s bumble bee species face some level of extinction. Dispatches from other branches of the insect family tree tell similar tales – from declining moths in Scotland to drops in the abundance of tiger beetles, stoneflies and mayflies in the United States to decreases in beetles, moths and caddisflies in the Netherlands. A 2019 review of 73 insect-decline papers stated that the animals are disappearing so fast that more than 40 percent of the world’s insect species may be threatened with extinction in the next few decades. However, the solutions to these declines are within our reach.

Bee population in Wisconsin city increases in abundance and diversity with No Mow May

Ground-level image of dandelions.

(Post-Crescent) A sampling of No Mow May lawns at the end of May found a fivefold increase in bee abundance and a threefold increase in bee diversity in comparison to nearby parkland that was mowed regularly. An assistant biology professor at Lawrence University said the findings demonstrate that not mowing lawns for an extended period is beneficial for pollination.

Hedging against biodiversity loss

Image of hedgerows and road verges.

(The Applied Ecologist) Hedgerows and road verges are important habitats across the globe. Hedgerows are ubiquitous around the world because of their historical use as livestock barriers, markings of land property, and wood production. Road verges cover an estimated 0.2 percent of the earth’s land surface – an area equivalent to the entire United Kingdom. New research is showing that the benefits of these habitats to both nature and people are numerous.