Noticing a pattern? These citizen-science projects are concerned with dwindling numbers of particular insects, micro-studies in population decline and disappearance. Start putting them together and you realize that the recent study in Science which found a 45% drop in invertebrate populations over the last four decades, is the bigger picture. The reasons: habitat loss, climate change, invasive disruption, and wholesale application of poisons (insecticides). The article cited makes the point that there is much we don’t know about these animals and their long evolutionary place in the world, although we have some ideas. They are fundamental to life on earth. I loathe the term “ecological services” since it suggests that nature is akin to the capitalist system, which it isn’t, but the ecological reality of insects is that they are key to pollination, waste-disposal, soil health, and the populations of amphibians/reptiles, birds, and mammals that eat them.
But few of them are cute, furry, or have adorable scrunchy faces that make people squeal in excitement. You’re unlikely to find a YouTube of a wasp hugging a roach. These are problems: if you don’t know about them (or hardly even notice them), and don’t care about them, then you’re unlikely to do anything about their disappearance. For instance, nobody likes flies. But you don’t have to like something to appreciate the part they play in the world. This is a Flesh Fly (Sarcophaga pernix), damned right off by both its common and scientific names. Yet without the likes of this creature, we’d be up to our necks in much slower rotting carcasses and shit.