A staple of summer — swarms of bugs — seems to be a thing of the past. And that’s got scientists worried.
Pesky mosquitoes, disease-carrying ticks, crop-munching aphids and cockroaches are doing just fine. But the more beneficial flying insects of summer — native bees, moths, butterflies, ladybugs, lovebugs, mayflies and fireflies — appear to be less abundant.
Scientists think something is amiss, but they can’t be certain: In the past, they didn’t systematically count the population of flying insects, so they can’t make a proper comparison to today. Nevertheless, they’re pretty sure across the globe there are fewer insects that are crucial to as much as 80 percent of what we eat.
Yes, some insects are pests. But they also pollinate plants, are a key link in the food chain and help decompose life.
“You have total ecosystem collapse if you lose your insects. How much worse can it get than that?” said University of Delaware entomologist Doug Tallamy. If they disappeared, “the world would start to rot.”
A good place to start raising awareness about the importance of insects for humanity would be to stop calling them “bugs” — and likewise stop calling the soil in which so many of them live, “dirt.”