Insect Apocalypse

HUMANS CAN HAVE A BIG IMPACT ON THE ANIMAL WORLD. IN GERMANY FOLKS ARE CONCERNED ABOUT A DECLINE IN INSECTS. THEY HAVE LOST NEARLY 75 PERCENT OF THE INSECTS IN THEIR NATURE RESERVES.

PART TO BLAME FOR THE LACK OF BUGS IS THE USE OF PESTICIDES. A PESTICIDE IS A CHEMICAL USED TO KILL OR KEEP AWAY INSECTS FROM DAMAGING CROPS.

WHILE WE DON’T WANT INSECTS EATING OUR FRUITS AND VEGGIES, WE STILL NEED THEM AROUND TO PLAY AN IMPORTANT PART IN THE ECOSYSTEM.

ATIKA SHUBERT HAS MORE...

ATIKA: IT DOESN'T LOOK LIKE MUCH. A LONE TENT FLUTTERING NEAR A COPSE OF TREES. BUT THIS IS A CRUCIAL PART OF A 25 YEAR EFFORT TO TRACK CREATURES THAT MAKE UP TWO THIRDS OF ANIMAL LIFE ON EARTH: INSECTS. THEY ARE VANISHING. BY THE MILLIONS.

OVER THE LAST 3 DECADES, THE NUMBER OF INSECTS HAS DROPPED BY MORE THAN 75% IN NATURE RESERVES IN GERMANY.

BAD NEWS FOR HUMANS AND THE ECO-SYSTEM WE SHARE WITH THEM.

PROF. HANS DE KROON, RADBOUD UNIVERSITY: "WE SORT OF KNOW THAT IS HAPPENING. BUT THE MAGNITUDE IS MUCH STRONGER THAN WE'VE REALIZED IN THE PAST."

THE KREFELD ENTOMOLOGICAL SOCEITY IS AT LEAST A CENTURY OLD. THEY COMPILE AND SORT EVERY WASP, FLY, BEE AND COUNTLESS OTHERS THAT GETS CAUGHT IN ITS NETS - PROVIDING PRICELESS RAW DATA FOR ECOLOGISTS. THEY WEIGH THE BIOMASS - ALL THE INSECTS COLLECTED IN A WEEK FROM 42 NETS STATIONED ACROSS GERMANY.

DR. SORG SHOWS US THE LARGE VAT OF INSECTS COLLECTED IN A SUMMER WEEK 20 YEARS AGO ... COMPARED TO THE THIN SAMPLE COLLECTED TODAY.

DR. MARTIN SORG, ENTOMOLOGIST: "THE MAIN PROBLEM WE SEE IS THE EXTINCTION OF SPECIES IN CERTAIN PLACES."

SCIENTISTS SAY BUTTERFLIES AND BEES HAVE DECLINED IN WESTERN EUROPE AND NORTH AMERICA.

SO WHY ARE INSECTS VANISHING? THE STUDY SAYS MORE RESEARCH IS NEEDED TO PINPOINT THE CAUSE.

BUT IT'S PROBABLY NOT CLIMATE CHANGE: RISING TEMPERATURES SHOULD CREATE A THRIVING ENVIRONMENT FOR INSECTS BUT NUMBERS ARE STILL PLUMMETING. THE ANSWER MAY BE CLOSER TO HOME.

ATIKA SHUBERT, KREFELD, GERMANY: "THESE NETS ARE STATIONED INSIDE NATURE RESERVES - WHAT'S SUPPOSED TO BE A PROTECTED ENVIRONMENT. BUT TAKE A LOOK AT THIS - THE NATURE RESERVES ARE OFTEN BORDERING RIGHT UP AGAINST AGRICULTURAL LAND AND THAT MEANS THESE INSECTS ARE FLYING FROM A PROTECTED AREAS TO HOSTILE ENVIRONMENTS."

INSECTICIDES USED IN FARMS HAVE ALREADY BEEN DETECTED - ABSORBED INSIDE THE TREES OF NATURE RESERVES.

PROF. HANS DE KROON, RADBOUD UNIVERSITY

"THERE IS INCREASING EVIDENCE THAT THESE LOW CONCENTRATIONS DO AFFECT THE INSECTS. NOT BECAUSE IT'S LETHAL BUT BECAUSE IT DISRUPTS THEIR LIFE CYCLE."

VANISHING INSECTS HAVE ALREADY HAD A DEBILITATING IMPACT ON BIRDS. IT'S ONLY A MATTER OF TIME BEFORE IT AFFECTS PEOPLE, FEARS DE KROON.

PROF. HANS DE KROON, RADBOUD UNIVERSITY: "INSECTS ARE VERY IMPORTANT. I THINK EVERYONE REALIZES THAT. THEY SERVE AS FOOD FOR BIRDS, BATS AND OTHER ANIMALS. THEY ARE IMPORTANT AS POLLINATORS FOR WILD CROPS. THERE'S A SUBSTANTIAL LOSS IN CROP YIELD AND PROFIT IF THESE WILD POLLINATORS ARE VANISHING. SO, THAT'S REALLY AFFECTING OURSELVES."

NOW, THE TEAM IS RACING TO FIND THE EXACT REASON BEHIND THE VANISHING OF INSECTS IN THE HOPE OF STOPPING IT BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE.

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN. KREFELD, GERMANY.


Find Out More


Website: National Geographic Kids, Insects | Click on a photo to learn more about lots of different insects.

PDF: Smithsonian Science Education Center, Expedition: Insects Coloring Book | Download and print to create beautiful pictures.

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