Insects on the way to extinction

Insects on the way to extinction

I don’t need a scientific paper to tell me that the insects are practically all gone. 

Yet we are being told we have to eat them! No doubt they will be farmed “sustainably”

Without so much as one splattered insect on our windshield!

Recently I made a trip to a small town where I used to live.  This town in about 30 miles east of Kansas City, MO and the highway runs along the Missouri River.  Forty years has passed since I lived there.  The first thing I noticed was that there were no pastures on each side of the road.  The hills, made of Loes Soil, are now completely covered with corn crops. Even this is rather strange as most current farmers alternate soybeans crops with corn.  Since there were very few soybean fields, I must calculate that the farmers are planting corn year after year.

On the way back, I took a different road.  This road was about ten miles south of the first road and ran parallel to I 70.  I had travelled this road many times as it ran a few miles north of two booming small cities.  The thing that I noticed about how it had changed was the increase in housing.  Every space on both sides of the road had a house.  Most were large enough to house families of a dozen and many large enough to house two or three families.  Each sat on a five, ten or larger yard.  A yard free of dandelions and with the fertilized carpet appearance.  

Even though it was the middle of August and we were in farm country, we arrived home safe, rested, and of note, without so much as one splattered insect on our windshield!

I was raised on a farm years ago.  I am old enough to remember the service station having an attendant who would fill our gas tank while we remained in the car.  While the pump filled the tank of our car, the attendant checked the oil under the hood, made sure we still had water in our radiator, and most of all, washed our windshields.  They usually needed it.  Once the weather warmed up, by the time we used up the tank of gas, our windshields would be plastered with a variety of dead bugs.

We worry about elephants becoming extinct.  Tigers and other animals garner our attention, our contributions and efforts to make sure the survive. Butterflies and bees also get our attention, but seldom do we ever think of the most plentiful animal on the earth; the rest of the insects.

Insects outweigh all the fish in the oceans and all the livestock munching grass on land. Their abundance, variety (there could be as many as 30 million species), and ubiquity mean insects play a foundational role in food webs and ecosystems: from the bees that pollinate the flowers of food crops like almonds to the termites that recycle dead trees in forests.…

Earth Justice points out a lot of factors that we need to consider about insects.

  • “They’re vanishing at a very fast rate in some parts of the world.”
  • “Butterflies and moths, known as the Lepidoptera order, are some of the hardest hit.”
  • “Bees, butterflies, moths, dung beetles, and crickets are all declining.”

I wanted to make sure that dung beetles were on this list.  Many people have never even heard of dung beetles.  I can still remember when I was a youngster on the farm and as I walked across the pasture where we kept the cows, I saw my first dung beetle.  We called it a s@#t roller and I observed it pushing a ball of cow manure toward a hole in the ground where it stored food for the winter:

Every day, millions of herbivores – including the ungulates that we are studying in the Masai Steppe Ecosystem – eat tons of grass, excreting vast amounts of seed-filled dung. Dung beetles disperse, feast upon, and live within these droppings, which provide a nutrient-rich food source for the beetles’ larvae.  This may seem a lowly, rather unenviable lifestyle, but entomologists now understand that the savannah and many of its plants and animals completely depend upon the ecosystem services provided by dung beetles.

More than 100 species of dung beetle have been recorded in Serengeti National Park alone, with different strategies in how they utilize the dung.  “Roller” beetles create a ball of dung up to 40 times their body weight and can transport it up to 70 meters away, thus spreading nutrients far and wide.  “Tunneller” beetles bury their balls of dung, helping the plant seeds within to germinate.  Without these beetles, the ground would quickly be covered in a thick layer of dung, smothering the grasses that ungulates depend on for food.

Even the lowliest members of an ecosystem play critical roles in the intricate web of life.”    from the Wild Nature Institute

Getting back to my youth on the farm.  After we had milked the cows and before the sun went down, I would linger near the barn and watch the barn swallows.  Groups of them would dive and plunge, fly high and then desend, sometimes all together and then in groups.  They were called barn swallows because they built nests in the barn.  Later, as the darkness arrived, I watched bats, one by one, fly from their nesting place.

I think of the declining bird species. Many of them lived on insects. The insects lived on plant material and the minerals that they accumulated would then be gobbbled up by flying birds and then as the birds vlew far and wide, sometime thousands of miles, they exerted their waste (bat dung is some of the best fertilizer in the world) and spread minerals across the land. All a part of the process of life on our planet.

Along with the declining insects, we are also losing frogs, salamanders, and caecilians:

“This is particularly disturbing because amphibians — which include frogs, salamanders, and caecilians (they look like worms crossed with snakes) — have been around for hundreds of millions of years.

“During the great extinctions of the dinosaurs in the Pleistocene, amphibians made it through with no appreciable effect,” Mendelson says. “So they’re not the most delicate creatures in the world. But the world has gotten so bad now that even the amphibians can’t tolerate it.”…The planet is at the start of a sixth mass extinction in its history, with huge losses already reported in larger animals that are easier to study. But insects are by far the most varied and abundant animals, outweighing humanity by 17 times. They are “essential” for the proper functioning of all ecosystems, the researchers say, as food for other creatures, pollinators and recyclers of nutrients…One of the biggest impacts of insect loss is on the many birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish that eat insects. “If this food source is taken away, all these animals starve to death,”…

We tend to think that it is the farmers who are spraying toxic chemicals and responsible for the death of so many animals.  But as I drove by the beautiful yards that stretched for miles and then returned to my city abode and saw the golf courses, all within minutes from me and then across, up and down and over, street after street with weed free lawns and free from patches of flowers for insects to live in…

I am 80 years old and have been involved in farm education, actual farming, associated with Amish families and their production and in my retirement, only wanted to have a nice little garden.  Beginning a little over four years ago, I started losing plants because of drift from dandelion spaying.  I have gone from tomato plants that formed an arbor above my head to plants that kept getting smaller and smaller.  This year, as of Sept the first, I have only had one tomato grow to full size.  This is a far cry from when I furnished the neighbors with tomatoes.  In four years, I have only had one turnip crop that even germinated.  The same goes with beet, chard and I have had two pea crops that the leaves withered off of.  I could go on and on.  This will be my last attempt because I am no longer able to haul in trailer loads of new compost and hundreds of bags to spread. You can read about how this started on a previous story Here

An update

An Update on Vanishing Insects

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