Good news for people who hate insects: their numbers are plummeting at a high rate. The bad news: their extinction will lead to the collapse of nature.
Insect populations worldwide are declining at an alarming rate due to excessive pesticide use and a number of other factors.
And Old Issue Turned Worse
While the issue is far from fresh in the scientific community, a new report suggests the problem is more pressing than previously thought. In 2014, an international team of biologists reported that in the past 35 years, the population of bees and beetles have decreased by a whooping 45 %. An equally worrying study published last year has shown a 76 % decrease in flying insect population in German nature preserves.
The most recent report on the subject has shown some startling numbers. More than 40 % of insect species are dwindling in numbers, while a third are endangered, according to the latest report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. To put these numbers into perspective, the population of insects is falling by 2.5 % a year. In this rhythm, all insects could vanish within a century.
What Would Happen if All Insects Vanished?
So how would the world look like if all insects vanished? Not good. In fact, within 50 years of their untimely demise, all life on Earth would cease to exist. Although we wouldn’t have to deal with those annoying mosquitos anymore or die from malaria, most of us won’t live long enough to reap the benefits because we would all starve to death.
Roughly 80 % of Earth’s plants are angiosperms (flowering plants), meaning they require pollination from pollinating insects such as bees and butterflies. Further on, between 50 and 90 % of the human diet comes from flowering plants, such as grains, wheat, rice as well as fruits and vegetables.
Moreover, some of these foods are fed to animals that we eat, and you can probably guess where this is going. In short, the gradual and even sudden extinction of insects will cause a nasty chain reaction that will render all life nill. To top it all, after we’ll all inevitably succumb to starvation, the Earth will be turned into a massive, stinky mass graveyard, as insects play a vital role in the decomposing process.
Mao Zedong’s ”Brilliant” Plan
A great example of what happens when the ecological balance is perturbed by an unprecedented event is the Four Pests Campaign, Mao Zedong’s moronic initiative to eliminate pests. By exterminating rats, flies, mosquitos and sparrows, Mao Zedong hoped to prevent the transmission of pestilence, disease and plague. The sparrows were the most affected because they ate grain seed and fruit.
The Chinese leaders changed their opinion in the Spring of 1960, when ornithologist Tso-hsin Cheng t, pointed out that sparrows ate a lot of insects. As a result of the absence of natural predators such as the sparrow, insects were free to munch away at their crops, decreasing rice yields instead of increasing them.
In a sudden change of spirit, Mao ordered the cessation of sparrow hunting and their swift replacement with bed bugs. However, it was too late – the locust populations dwindled, enhancing the already-existing problems caused by the Great Leap Forward, and exacerbating the Great Chinese Famine, during which between 20 and 45 million people died of starvation.
So think about that the next time you absentmindedly crush a bug or wish they never existed. They’re probably the reason you got food on the table.
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