Why a global insect decline affects us all

Insects crucial for ecosystem functioning and food production

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A comprehensive review of insect declines around the world gives a stark picture of the scale of the declines and the consequences both for ecology and human welfare. The paper, published in Biological Conservation, warns that 40% of the world’s insect species could become extinct within a few decades under current trends. And the loss of this diversity could lead to dramatic increases in pest insects which harm food production and human health.

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To bee or not to bee

Bee on apple blossom
Honeybee on apple blossom. Image Credit: Myriams-Fotos via Pixabay (CC0)

This Sunday the UK celebrated World Bee Day (May 20th); the first year of the now to be annual UN awareness event aimed at increasing our sensitivity to the global importance and increasing struggle of pollinators. Whilst the event hopes to increase understanding of pollinators generally, including butterflies, moths, birds and bats, the focus is strongly on wild and managed bees for their economic importance. And justly so; bees visit over 70 crops in the UK alone and are worth billions worldwide in the pollination service they provide. However, it would be difficult to miss the worryingly-frequent headlines warning of bee decline both in the UK and globally as a result of human activities.

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Buzzing activity around pollinator health

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Yesterday I cherished the start of spring in England by attending an event devoted to pollinators and pollination at the University of Reading. Most presentations at this meeting organised by the Royal Entomological Society were understandably about bees, but we also heard a few talks highlighting the importance of other pollinator groups.

For about five years now the media has been broadcasting alarming news about declining bee populations especially in Europe and North America. While the amounting evidence points to neonicotinoid insecticides being a major cause for the decline, I learnt yesterday that the situation is actually rather complex, other stressors are also involved, and scientists are still eagerly trying to form a complete understanding of the issue.

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O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, how big is your Carbon Footprint?

Xmas tree
As part of the festive season this year, many of us will either buy a fresh Christmas tree, or we will bring an artificial one down from the attic.   Either way, a Christmas Tree often forms an important part of the festivities.  According to the National Christmas Tree Association, in 2012, US consumers purchased 24.5 million “real” trees compared to 10.9 million artificial trees.  However, of those that displayed Christmas trees in 2012, 83% had an artificial tree.  While many people believe a traditional live tree contributes to fighting climate change through carbon sequestration, others claim that an artificial tree can be used year after year without the need for fertilizers or pesticides. But which of these options is better for the environment?

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Banned chemicals and silent springs

PesticidesRecently I have been removing an array of chemicals, from alpha-hexachlorocyclohexane to zeta-cypermethrin, from CABI’s compendia (Crop Protection Compendium, Forestry Compendium and Invasive Species Compendium) records, as these chemicals have either been banned or severely restricted in their use. This work was sponsored by Plant Protection Station, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Japan.

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