Whatever your weekend reading was, I’m pretty sure it did not include the journal Biological Conservation and its article “Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers”. The short version is that the report warns that 40% of worldwide insect species could become extinct in the next few decades. The result could be a collapse in ecosystems across the planet with impacts that are hard to fully grasp. Insects play important roles throughout healthy ecosystems and their role as pollinators is essential to worldwide food production. The loss of diverse insect populations is a big deal.
As is true with increasing frequency, habitat loss, ubiquitous pesticide use and climate change are all conspiring to cause accelerated species decline. While continuing to work on the broader issues, there are some very personal things we can all do to make our own yards and towns more hospitable to a wide range of beneficial insects. APCC has long advocated the preservation and restoration of native plant species that support local beneficial insect species. Native plants have many benefits, reduced water and fertilizer needs among them, but none more important than providing habitat for beneficial insects. Planting native species has never been easier. Many nurseries now carry native plants and you can support them and the environment by asking for, and buying, local plant stocks.
Equally important to consider is eliminating the use of insecticides on your property. Insecticides have a singular purpose, killing insects. As the pesticide/insecticide industry has grown more sophisticated, it has begun promoting “natural” insecticides with the implication that their toxic properties are somewhat more benign. While perhaps safer to humans than older chemicals, all these newer insecticides are still toxic, and many are especially damaging to pollinators even if the targets are mosquitos or ticks. A dead bee probably doesn’t care that it died from a “natural” insecticide instead of a synthetic one. The bee is still dead.
So as the spring gets closer, think hard about what you are doing in your yard and make the smart choice. Don’t introduce insecticides into your yard, no matter what the marketing says. Add some native plants to enhance the beauty and functionality of your landscaping. You may not be able to stop the worldwide pressures on beneficial insects, but you can make your yard an oasis for beneficial insects and the plants and animals that rely on them.