Disappearing Insects

In The Guardian Michael McCarthy reports that insect populations are disappearing at a catastrophic rate – 75% of all insects lost since 1989, which of course begins to explain the similar collapse of many species of birds. My own personal experience of the prevalence of insects in gardens, fields and on car windscreens correlates with this.

Our ecosystem is undergoing rapid and massive collapse, by historical standards. It is pretty clear that a major contributory cause is modern industrial farming and related so-called pesticides.

And yet the majority, look, shrug their shoulders and carry on as before. Politicians take the lead from either the status quo, industrial lobbying or their own dogmas about reversing changes done by ‘the other side’. Environmental leaders are tolerated but not really listened to.

Where is the massive programme needed to reverse this catastrophe before it is too late? Such as a massive increase in organic farming, reduction in intensity of cultivation, rewilding of low-productivity farming land, extension of nature reserves, end to unnecessary mowing of verges and fields, massive reduction in use of pesticides, and on and on?

We seem like frogs in a pan of water that is being slowly heated up. From minute to minute there seems little different and nothing to be really concerned about, so we don’t try to jump out. Of course, eventually the frog dies as the water boils.

Featured image of Ovipositor and sheath of Aulacid wasp
from Insects Unlocked [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Garden wildlife

I mowed the lawn this evening, and scared the daylights out of two frogs. Both emerged from dense vegetation, presumably feeling threatened by the noise of the grass cutter, and hopped off towards the sanctuary of the pond.

As I put some of the grass cuttings into the compost heap, I could feel the heat and see the mass of living things – slugs, flies, beetles, worms… It’s certainly true, as covered in Chris Packham’s excellent program on BBC4 last night ‘Life and Death on your Lawn’, that the domestic back garden can provide the environment for a plethora of wildlife. The large number of birds is testament to this, as well as to the welcome propensity of people to put up feeders. Indeed, it seems suburbia is becoming a haven for wildlife compared to the aridity of much industrial scale farming.

Which of course is why the trend to put more concrete and artificial grass in back gardens, as well as front, is quite deplorable. How disconnected from the real world can you get?

My early experience of gardening largely entailed keeping things tidy. Now I realise that the very process of ‘tidying’ can be quite damaging to the local wildlife. Newts, frogs, beetles, woodlice, millipedes scamper for alternative cover when a supposedly untidy lawn edge is tidied up. So shaggy is the new ‘in’ for our garden.

Even so, we struggle to repeat the mass frog spawning seen here in the early 2000s (pic), much as the above programme showed in Welwyn. Frogs are under so much threat these days, and tidiness is far from the greatest of these.