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.

Researchers develop advanced cloning techniques to replenish threatened plants

Image of Hill's Thistle with bee on it.

(University of Guelph) Researchers used advanced cloning techniques to give the threatened Hill’s thistle a fighting chance at population recovery. A lack of suitable habitat due to the encroachment of trees and shrubs, as well as cottage development and quarrying activity in its natural habitat, have contributed to the decline. The Hill’s thistle grows in scarce Great Lakes areas known as open alvar grasslands. In Canada, the flowering plant is known to support the life cycles of rare bees and other pollinators.

Lawsuit attacks Trump administration failure to protect hundreds of species from extinction

Image of western bumble bee.

(Center for Biological Diversity) The Center for Biological Diversity has sued the Trump administration for failing to decide whether 241 plants and animals across the country should be protected under the Endangered Species Act. Among the species covered by the lawsuit is the western bumble bee, whose population has declined 84 percent over the past two decades.

More scientists warn about worldwide insect decline

Image of red and black moth.

(University of Helsinki) Humanity is pushing many ecosystems beyond recovery. As a consequence, unquantified and unquantifiable insect extinctions are happening every day. Two scientific papers by 30 experts from around the world discuss both the perils and ways to avoid further extinctions, intending to contribute towards a necessary change of attitude for humanity’s own sake.