AUG 12, 2020 9:14 AM PDT

Are insects really going to die off for good?

Warnings about an "insect apocalypse" have been making headlines in ecology and conservation news in the past several years, but according to a University of Georgia professor of agroecology, these warnings may not tell the whole picture. Bill Snyder, together with researchers from UGA, Hendrix College and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, analyzed data on insects across the US to determine if the anticipated decline is really on the horizon.

The study idea came about as a genuine curiosity of Snyder’s. “We depend on insects for so many things," he said. "If insects disappear it would be really, really bad. Maybe the end of human existence."

Photo: Pixabay

The team used over 5,300 data points of insects and other arthropods collected within the last 4-36 years at monitoring sites in 68 Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites in the US. They sampled data including grasshoppers in the Konza Prairie in Kansas; ground arthropods in the Sevilleta desert/grassland in New Mexico; mosquito larvae in Baltimore, Maryland; macroinvertebrates and crayfish in North Temperate Lakes in Wisconsin; aphids in the Midwestern U.S.; crab burrows in Georgia coastal ecosystems; ticks in Harvard Forest in Massachusetts; caterpillars in Hubbard Brook in New Hampshire; arthropods in Phoenix, Arizona; and stream insects in the Arctic in Alaska.

Snyder found insect population trends have stayed the same in abundance and diversity. According to Science Daily, this consistency was seen across arthropod feeding groups and for heavily disturbed versus relatively natural sites.

"No matter what factor we looked at, nothing could explain the trends in a satisfactory way," said lead author Michael Crossley. "We just took all the data and, when you look, there are as many things going up as going down. Even when we broke it out in functional groups there wasn't really a clear story like predators are decreasing or herbivores are increasing."

These findings were published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. Crossley, an agricultural entomologist, adds, "This is an implication for conservation and one for scientists, who have been calling for more data due to under-sampling in certain areas or certain insects. We took this opportunity to use this wealth of data that hasn't been used yet. There's got to be even more data sets that we don't even know about. We want to continue to canvass to get a better idea about what's going on."

That being said, Crossley and Snyder say that while this it is hopeful news that there are not overall declines in the US, we can’t deny the drastic populations declines in pollinations in the US and overall insect decline in Europe.

Sources: Nature Ecology and Evolution, Eureka Alert

About the Author
BA Environmental Studies
Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
OCT 06, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Geologic Layering Responsible for "Watery" Reflections on Mars
OCT 06, 2022
Geologic Layering Responsible for "Watery" Reflections on Mars
In a recent study published in Nature Astronomy, a team of researchers from Cornell University examined bright spots ben ...
OCT 20, 2022
Plants & Animals
Using Drones with Heat-Sensing Cameras to Protect Sea Turtle Nests
OCT 20, 2022
Using Drones with Heat-Sensing Cameras to Protect Sea Turtle Nests
Sea turtles are well known for their curious way of producing offspring: once eggs are laid on a beach, the baby turtles ...
OCT 28, 2022
Earth & The Environment
Researchers Examine Coral Chemical Compounds on Reef Health Effects
OCT 28, 2022
Researchers Examine Coral Chemical Compounds on Reef Health Effects
In a recent study published in ISME Communications, a team of researchers led by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institutio ...
NOV 14, 2022
Plants & Animals
Half of all palm tree species at risk of extinction
NOV 14, 2022
Half of all palm tree species at risk of extinction
Palm trees are a fixture of tropical locales. We often think of them when we think of warm vacation locations, including ...
NOV 16, 2022
Earth & The Environment
The rediscovery of ichthyosaur casts and a case for highlighting museum collections
NOV 16, 2022
The rediscovery of ichthyosaur casts and a case for highlighting museum collections
An important ichthyosaur fossil was destroyed in WWII, but researchers have recently found 2 casts of the missing fossil ...
NOV 23, 2022
Plants & Animals
Planting Trees Literally Saves Lives
NOV 23, 2022
Planting Trees Literally Saves Lives
The connection between nature and health has received quite a bit of attention in recent years. For example, some studie ...
Loading Comments...