Insect 'Armageddon' Signaled by Big Drop in Bug Numbers?

Entomological Society Krefeld entomologists setting up a Malaise trapENTOMOLOGICAL SOCIETY KREFELD

"Many of these preserves are islands surrounded by farmland, which may act as a sink for insects, resulting in a steady flow out from these lands", says study author and ecologist Dave Goulson of the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom.

"Insects make up about two-thirds of all life on Earth", Dave Goulson, a biologist at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom and a co-author of the new study, said in a statement.

Hans de Kroon of Radboud University in the Netherlands, who supervised the research, suggested reducing the use of pesticides, expanding nature reserves and developing good monitoring programs as ways to exercise "the utmost caution" in an effort to protect insect populations.

"These surrounding areas inflict flying insects and they can not survive there", said Caspar Hallmann, researcher at Radboud.

Insects are an integral part of life on Earth as both pollinators and prey for other wildlife and it was known that some species such as butterflies were declining.

"This analysis is a good first cut of the data and I suspect, with further analyses, [the authors] can understand which of the species are decreasing because most certainly, it is not a 76-percent decrease of all of the species", says Krupke.

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According to speculations, one of the many factors that contributed to the alarming decline was the widespread use of pesticides.

Countless insects living in every corner of the world, prevents to conduct such calculations directly, so scientists conducting them, installing special traps in the national parks and counting the number of insects that fall in them for a certain period of time.

Malaise traps are tents used to capture over a thousand of samples of flying insects. And after 27 years, in mid-summer, the decline was 82 percent.

The researchers discovered an average decline of 76 percent in the total insect mass. "The protected areas in which this study was undertaken are relatively small and surrounded by agriculture".

Scientists believe the fact the declines were recorded in well-managed nature reserves makes the results even more troubling, as numbers outside them, where wildlife has less or no protection, are likely to be even worse.

"We don't know exactly what the causes are", said de Kroon, but he noted that "in the modern agricultural landscape, for insects it's a hostile environment". Then don't only pollinate crops and serve as a food source for countless animals - like birds, mammals, and amphibians -, but also help scientists provided valuable genetic information related to life-saving research.

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