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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