Disaster can be averted: What we can do to protect insects
Author, Ellen Holtman , active Master Gardener
Scientists have warned for years about the loss of diversity on our planet and especially our loss of insects. We are told we are living through the sixth great extinction event on earth, the only one caused by our species. Remember the headlines? The Insect Apocalypse is Here!
Climate change, along with pesticides and habitat loss, are threatening insect populations worldwide. As we know, insects are essential for the proper functioning of all ecosystems as food for other animals, as pollinators, and for recycling nutrients. And as renowned biologist E.O. Wilson wrote, “If we were to wipe out insects alone on this planet, the rest of life and humanity with it would mostly disappear from the land.” According to the largest study to date, insect populations are declining by about 0.92% per year, amounting to 24% fewer insects in 30 years and 50% fewer in 75 years. If the current rate of extinction continues no insects will remain in 100 years.
If the current rate of extinction continues no insects will remain in 100 years.
The authors of the new study gave guidelines for land managers and for the agriculture industry, and they suggest nine things that individuals can do to help out the insects. If you try even one of the following, you will be contributing to the health of our plants including our vegetable gardens and fruit trees.
- Mow your lawn infrequently, reduce its size, or get rid of it.
Notice how many of the plants are perennials and are very low maintenance.
2. Plant native plants, which are all that many insects need to survive.
Check back soon to view our new page on Natives.
3. Go organic in your garden and in your grocery shopping. Avoid pesticides.
Who wants to eat something that has pesticides? There are so many organic and alternative methods to rid bugs in our garden! Call the Help Desk if you would like information.
4. Leave stumps, logs, old trees and dead leaves alone as they are home to many insects. A brush pile provides shelter for birds as well as insects in winter.
For those fortunate home owners that have a bit more land and trees, a brush pile might not be so noticeable but for the rest of us, it would be an eyesore! Try getting some fallen branches and twigs to make a mini “art” piece in your yard. People have even tied up bundles of twigs and stood them up to make a teepee! Have your kids help to make it a fun project. Watch while birds use it to hide in or caterpillars make their cocoons.
5. Construct an insect hotel, a wooden frame with drilled holes and also spaces filled with twigs, hollow stems, strips of bark, and other natural materials. What a creative and functional addition to your yard!
There are those that are as big as a dresser or built in the Y of a tree. You can even buy them on line for a reasonable price for those that just don’t have the time to construct these little jewels.
6. Reduce your carbon footprint. This helps all life, including insects.
7. Give conservation organizations your support and/or volunteer time.
8. Do not release wild animals and plants into the wild that could harm native species. Do not import or plant non-native species.
9. Tune in to the tiny creatures around you and “always look on the small side of life.”