(Washington Post) In North America alone, at least 277 plant and animal species have gone extinct. In the past 500 years, humans have wiped out nearly 2 1/2 percent of amphibian species, 2 percent of mammals and birds, and about 1 percent of reptiles and fish. At a geological scale that’s a stunning rate of extinction in a vanishingly brief period of time. However, the full list of the fallen is composed primarily of mollusks, insects and other more obscure organisms – and it is egregiously incomplete. “We’re obliterating landscapes before we’ve even had a chance to catalogue the species that lived there.”
(Science) A common pesticide may be causing more collateral damage than thought. According to a new study, neonicotinoids can kill beneficial insects such as honey bees, hoverflies and parasitic wasps by contaminating honeydew, a sugar-rich liquid excreted by certain insects. This can devastate more insects across the food web than nectar contaminated with insecticides could, the research team says, because honeydew is more abundant, especially in agricultural fields.
(NPR) In her new book, “Buzz, Sting, Bite: Why We Need Insects”, Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson writes about the dangers people face as the numbers of insects drop. The creatures play a vital role in pollinating crops, eating discarded food left behind on city streets, and feeding other animals in the food chain.
(Conservation Science and Practice) “The scientific community has understandably been focused on establishing the breadth and depth of the phenomenon and on documenting factors causing insect declines. In parallel with ongoing research, it is now time for the development of a policy consensus that will allow for a swift societal response… To these ends, we suggest primary policy goals summarized at scales from nations to farms to homes.”
(EurekAlert/Newcastle University) Previous studies have shown the flush of pollen-producing wildflowers after a fire can benefit the day-time pollinators such as bees and butterflies. In contrast, the team found that night-time moths, which are important but often overlooked pollinators, were much less abundant and with fewer species found after the fire. This is likely due to the moths’ inability to breed in burned areas if host plants are destroyed by fire.
(Anthropocene) There indeed seem to be many fewer bugs than there used to be – but precisely how few, and for what reasons, is still a matter of some debate. Of the species that have been reviewed, though, some 40 percent are considered threatened. These include more than one-quarter of North American and European bumblebee species. “Acting with imperfect knowledge is something that we do all of the time, in our personal and professional lives. It is a rational response to reductions in insect abundance and diversity.”
(Edmonton Journal) The University of Alberta is offering Bugs 101 as a free, “massive open online” course, which anyone can enroll in. The course covers a similar amount of content to a typical 13-week, in-class course, Across four modules, Bugs 101 touches on topics including insect movement, roles in ecosystems, disease transmission and how climate change is affecting bug populations. “We also deal with the interactions between people and insects and talk about various ways of sustainably managing insects that are considered to be pests.”
(Smithsonian) “It takes specific legislation to preserve the amazing variety of insects in the world and the critical services they provide… The creation of sustainable systems for environmental protection, transportation and agriculture will depend on biologically literate, empathetic people who join together to create knowledge-based legislation…”