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Small critters, big hitters
Ever stop to marvel at just how incredible insects are?
They’re the backbone of the entire food chain. One of the main reasons why life can function in the way it does on this planet.
If you remove a vertebrate species from an ecosystem it would have knock-on effect to the rest of it. But ultimately life would carry on. Species go extinct all the time - that’s natural selection in action. But if you were to remove the invertebrates? That’s like removing the foundations of a skyscraper. The Jenga tower of life comes tumbling down.
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Insects are integral to life on earth. They’re busy little critters, and between them wear plenty of hats in their day to days:
they are a valuable source of food for many birds and mammals, including humans;
they help plants reproduce by moving pollen from one to another;
they clean up and decompose rotting material;
The list goes on.
And they’re everywhere, too. It’s estimated that insects make up around 80% of all life on earth.
Without insects, the world would be a very different one. It certainly wouldn’t be one that humans - or most other species - would enjoy living in.
Yet once again humans have succeeded in scoring a spectacular own goal by driving a massive decline in insect populations. A 2019 study revealed that more than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered. UK’s flying insects have declined a massive 60% in just 20 years.
Why such a steep drop? Well, for many of the same reasons that the rest of nature has declined so severely in the last few decades:
Light pollution, which increases predation and reduces insects’ ability to navigate;
Chemical pollution, because pesticides don’t differentiate between pests and everything else;
Habitat destruction, as insects prefer thick, wild meadows to concrete;
and climate change, as shifting temperatures disrupt breeding patterns.
But there’s a lot that can be done to help insects. Even in urban areas, a window box with some wildflowers will be a welcome food source for pollinators and you can set one up quickly and easily.
The lovely folks at Buglife are campaigning to save the small things, running projects that restore habitats, ban pesticides and build a wild network of highways for insects across the UK.
I reached out to see how I could help pitch in and ended up creating and narrating this video for them. Check it out to learn more about their valuable work.
At the very least, make your own garden a little wilder, tread a little lighter, and do what you can to give our hard workers a helping hand.