Insects: Bad news and good news

Published April 24, 2020

They called it the “Insect Apocalpyse,” and it’s the idea — well, the fact, real­ly — that insects appear to be on the decline in a big way, with huge loss­es in “insect bio­mass” in the U.S. and Europe.

But it turns out it’s not that sim­ple. The lat­est major sur­vey finds that land-dwelling insects are on the decline, but those on or near the water are doing fine.

Data most­ly gath­ered since the 1960s sug­gests that bee­tles, mayflies, drag­on­flies and oth­er crea­tures that spend a good part of their lives in water have increased about 11 per­cent per decade, says a study in Science April 24. In con­trast, land-dwelling insects shrank in abun­dance by about 9 per­cent per decade, the study says.

And one of the biggest poten­tial caveats: Most of the data come from the 1960s and lat­er, and there’s some evi­dence that pop­u­la­tions boomed into the ’60s, so this could be a long-term cycli­cal decline, or … you know, the end of the world.

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