By Submitted Article on February 27, 2020.
SOUTHERN ALBERTA GROUP
FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
I have a weakness for the little things of this planet. Insects, in all their variety, ability and beauty. I especially love spiders.
In fact, last summer my family adopted a gorgeous Cat Face Spider who had spread her web across my son’s window. We caught lunch for her and it was fabulous to watch her zip down from her hidey-hole to wrap up her prey in thick white silk. Her wrapping web was nearly invisible, like thin wool. Spiders produce seven types of silk for different jobs. To me, that’s fascinating and miraculous.
My love of insects gives me joy, but many humans don’t share that joy. Whatever our feelings, we are now aware that insect life is in serious peril.
A recent Guardian report notes the world’s insects are hurtling down the path to extinction with more than 40 per cent of insect species declining and a third endangered. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles.
But maybe the insects in Canada are OK?
No. They’re not. Do you recall the plethora of insects plastered across car windshields after a long summer trip? That doesn’t happen anymore. Agriculture Canada scientist Jeff Skevington, says “the country has lost a significant amount of its insect biodiversity in recent years based on the results of annual collection samples. That means a lot of the insects at the bottom of our food chain are dying out, which could have an unexpected, but noticeable impact on the lives of humans.”
In our region, 720 species of insects are at risk.
Insects are critical to the health of people. They pollinate our food, anchor entire food chains, break down plants and other organic matter, and control pest species that can decimate crops. Insects are such an important part of our planet’s ecosystems that biologist E.O. Wilson once called them “The little things that run the world.”
Why are insects threatened? There are multiple factors, including pesticide and herbicide use, habitat loss, intensive agriculture, light pollution and climate change. Skevington says climate change is “one of the most impactful reason bugs are dying out.” He cited recent temperature fluctuations in spring that some bugs simply can’t endure. “Quite often you’ll have really big warm spells so you get a flush of insects coming out, followed by a cold snap,” he said. Cold snaps can interrupt a bug’s lifecycle and severely impact their populations, and heat waves affect insect reproduction by severely decreasing male fertility.
What can we do to help insects bounce back? We can: stop using chemicals on our lawn and garden, get rid of the bug zapper (which kills beneficial insects) and buy organic food and cotton products that use fewer pesticides in production. In your garden, plant native species and leave little homes insects can shelter in, especially over the winter.
We’ll all be better off if insects can thrive again. You don’t have to feed a spider, but you can give one a hidey-hole in your yard!
For more information on this topic, please visit sage-environment.org.