EU has failed to halt decline of bees and butterflies, auditors say

Image of honey bee on purple flowers.

(Reuters) The European Court of Auditors looked at the effectiveness of the European Commission’s framework of measures aimed at protecting species also including wasps and beetles – such as its 2018 pollinators and biodiversity to 2020 initiatives. Such policies do not really help with the protection of pollinators, auditors said. The auditors even found that EU rules on pesticides are a main cause of wild pollinator losses.

‘National nature service’ needed for green recovery in England

Image of wildflowers by trees and water.

(The Guardian) The national government must “seize the day” and create a national nature service to restore wildlife and habitats in England, say a coalition of the country’s biggest green groups. It said such a move would create thousands of jobs, a more resilient country and tackle the wildlife and climate crises. The coalition has drawn up a list of 330 projects that are ready to go, including flower meadows, “tiny forests” in cities and hillside schemes to cut flooding. It said a service to fund the projects and train workers would create 10,000 jobs and be part of a green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

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.

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.

Where have all the insects gone?

Collage of different insects.

(National Geographic) If humans were to suddenly disappear, biologist Edward O. Wilson has famously observed, the Earth would “regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed 10,000 years ago.” But “if insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.” Without insects to pollinate them, most flowering plants, from daisies to dogwoods, would die out. It is, therefore, shocking—and alarming—that in most places scientists have looked recently, they’ve found that insect numbers are falling.

Honey bees could help monitor fertility loss in insects due to climate change

Image of honey bees with egg cells.

(ScienceDaily/University of British Columbia) Heat can kill sperm cells across the animal kingdom, yet there are few ways to monitor the impact of heat on pollinators like honey bees, who can serve as a bellwether for wider insect fertility losses due to climate change. Now, researchers used a technique called mass spectrometry to analyze sperm stored in honey bee queens and found five proteins that are activated when the queens are exposed to extreme temperatures. “Just like cholesterol levels are used to indicate the risk of heart disease in humans, these proteins could indicate whether a queen bee has experienced heat stress. If we start to see patterns of heat shock emerging among bees, that’s when we really need to start worrying about other insects.”

Dramatic loss of food plants for insects in Zurich

Image of bumble bee on woody burdock.

(EurekAlert/University of Bonn) A team of German and Swiss researchers have demonstrated that the diversity of food plants for insects in Zurich has dramatically decreased over the past 100 years. Overall, all plant communities have become much more monotonous, with just a few dominant common species. This means that bees, flies and butterflies are increasingly deprived of their food base. 250 volunteers helped map the flora and process historical records.