Insects Are Dying Off at a Scary Rate, Putting Humanity at Risk

Urban cockroaches might do well amid a collapse of insect populations globally

Urban cockroaches might do well amid a collapse of insect populations globally

The review, which looked at 73 studies conducted around the world, claimed that more than 40 per cent of insect species are now declining, adding that the rate of extinction is about eight times faster than the respective rate for birds, mammals and reptiles.

They found evidence for decline in all insect groups reviewed, but said it was most pronounced for butterflies and moths, native bees, beetles and aquatic insects such as dragonflies.

MORE: Pesticide ban could threaten viability of East Anglia's sugar beet industry, farmers told The review, published in the journal Biological Conservation, looked at 73 historical reports on insects from around the world, including studies in the United Kingdom, and found insects ranging from butterflies and bees to dung beetles were among the most affected.

The recent decline in bugs that fly, crawl, burrow and skitter across still water is part of a gathering "mass extinction", only the sixth in the last half-billion years.

Said said Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, at the University of Sydney, Australia, who co-wrote the review, to The Guardian: "It is very rapid".

They pollinate around 75 per cent of global crops, keep the numbers of pests in check and provide a food source for birds, bats and small mammals. Many insects feed on dead animals and fallen trees, thereby recycling nutrients back into the soil.

The pair of researchers set out to "systematically assess the underlying drivers" of the drop in insect populations. 'The main factor is the loss of habitat, due to agricultural practices, urbanisation and deforestation, ' he told BBC News.

Insects are also being hit by biological factors, such as pathogens and introduced species, and by climate change, where rising temperatures could affect the range of places where they can live, it says.

"Unless we change our ways of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades", the report said.

The repercussions of insect extinction would be "catastrophic to say the least", according to the report, as insects have been at "the structural and functional base of numerous world's ecosystems since their rise ... nearly 400 million years ago".

"Second is the increasing use of fertilizers and pesticides in agriculture worldwide and contamination with chemical pollutants of all kinds". They found that there are 41% of insects that are in decline, while 31% of insect species have encountered threatening declination, according to the numbers set by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

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