In the last couple of years, scientific researchers as well as contributors to the mainstream media have engaged in a spirited debate over whether a global insect apocalypse is underway.
The debate was prompted by research conducted over a period of 27 years by members of the Krefeld Entomological Society near Dusseldorf ‘who have monitored flying insect populations—everything from parasitic wasps to hoverflies and wild bees—in dozens of nature reserves. The research team found a sharp decline in their catch, with biomass dropping by some 82% in the summer when insect populations peak’.
Because insects sit at the base of the food web, if they decline, so, too, will many birds, bats, spiders, and other predators, with serious consequences for the entire biosphere of our planet. Responding to the news, the UK’s Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs spokesperson said: ‘Insects are fundamental to the health of the natural world and the decline of these vital species on a global scale is deeply concerning’.
However, even though arthropods make up most of the species on Earth, and much of the planet’s biomass, they are significantly understudied compared to mammals, plants, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish. (Insects are one type of arthropod; the other three types are myriapods such as centipedes, arachnids such as spiders, and crustaceans such as crabs.) Entomologists estimate that all the amazing yet understudied varieties of insects identified to date represent perhaps only 20 percent of the actual diversity of insects on our planet — such that there are billions of insect species that are entirely unknown to science. Thus, while many scientific research reports provide a clear warning about the dangers of insect loss, many scientists still say there is a need for more detailed information about the scale of insect declines and what is behind them.
For his part, Professor Dave Goulson, who studies animal ecology and biodiversity at the University of Sussex, and who has published more than 290 articles on the ecology and conservation of bumblebees and other insects, strongly argues that the collapse in insect populations is one of the most worrying symptoms of climate breakdown: ‘The rate of decline is spectacular, and it is affecting all the insects we have information on’. He further explains: ‘I’m responsible for the phrase “insect apocalypse”. It’s not to say that all insects will go extinct: I imagine we’ll always have cockroaches and houseflies. But it is the case that our more beautiful and useful insects might disappear’.
Meanwhile, our photographers Peter Howard Smith and Barney Melton together with our DOP Patrick Kerrigan-Hall have taken some macro photographs and videos capturing the intricate and unimaginable details of just a few of these fantastic creatures.
No specimens were harmed during the photo and film sessions. The insects unfortunately died of natural causes some time before making it to the studio.
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