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75% decrease in flying insects over 27 years

20 October 2017

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.

Insects comprise approximately two-thirds of all life on Earth, and ecosystems depend on them to pollinate plants and provide food for many animals. Prior research further shows insect-eating birds numbers have dramatically declined throughout Western Europe.

Check out the entire study here. The fact that habitat did not matter worries the researchers as they believe these declines could be happening "everywhere".

The study set Malaise traps, a specialized net that captures insects, up in 63 German nature protection areas for the 27-year long study.

To get the best possible idea of the insect population in the surveyed areas the scientists used what are known as Malaise traps. German researchers have recorded a 76 percent decline in bug numbers over a 27-year period, according to a study published Wednesday, Oct. 18.

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At 82 percent, the decline of insects biomass during midsummer, when insects populations tend to peak, proved more severe than the annual average decline.

In the study, researchers conducted a "census" 60 nature reserves created in Germany over the past century.

The decline is independent from habitat type and can not be explained by changes in weather, land use or habitat characteristics. Latty says it's unlikely there's one "smoking gun", but rather a combination of contributing factors.

"We don't often think about insects other than 'eww, an insect.' But these are the organisms running the world".

While noting they had not "exhaustively analyzed the climatic variables" that may have impacted populations, such as "prolonged droughts, or lack of sunshine especially in low temperatures", they also suggested "agricultural intensification (e.g. pesticide usage, year-round tillage, increased use of fertilizers and frequency of agronomic measures) that we could not incorporate in our analyses, may form a plausible cause". According to Caspar Hallmann (Radboud University), who performed the statistical analyses, "All these areas are protected and majority are managed nature reserves".

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Indeed, "ecosystem services provided by wild insects have been estimated at $57 billion annually in the US", the study says, quoting an earlier study.

"The first step is acknowledging that we have a problem, and working to correct that - how do we design our agriculture to encourage insects?".

"There's so much going on out there, it's a struggle to convince people that insects are important".

"If we were to lose the insects, we would lose most of our crops, we would lose all the flowers from the countryside, and we'd lose most of the bird life, the mammal life, and so on", Goulson told The World in an interview.

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75% decrease in flying insects over 27 years