The Canary on the Windshield

Or rather, the lack of one. The canary in this case is all the dead bugs people used to have to wipe off their windshields. Michael McCarthy, who titled his book on the great decline of life on earth during our watch The Moth Snowstorm, writes about being old enough to remember all those dead bugs. But this doesn’t happen anymore.

Yesterday, I read of a new study that found that insect populations in Europe have plummeted over the last 27 years.

Here’s the news item.

Here’s the study.

Here’s the abstract:

“Global declines in insects have sparked wide interest among scientists, politicians, and the general public. Loss of insect diversity and abundance is expected to provoke cascading effects on food webs and to jeopardize ecosystem services. Our understanding of the extent and underlying causes of this decline is based on the abundance of single species or taxonomic groups only, rather than changes in insect biomass which is more relevant for ecological functioning. Here, we used a standardized protocol to measure total insect biomass using Malaise traps, deployed over 27 years in 63 nature protection areas in Germany (96 unique location-year combinations) to infer on the status and trend of local entomofauna. Our analysis estimates a seasonal decline of 76%, and mid-summer decline of 82% in flying insect biomass over the 27 years of study. We show that this decline is apparent regardless of habitat type, while changes in weather, land use, and habitat characteristics cannot explain this overall decline. This yet unrecognized loss of insect biomass must be taken into account in evaluating declines in abundance of species depending on insects as a food source, and ecosystem functioning in the European landscape.”

OF COURSE it’s pesticides and habitat destruction, for f’s sake! Will this, one day not too far from now, be like those images of aurochs painted in caves?

1 Response to “The Canary on the Windshield”


  1. 1 Paul Lamb October 20, 2017 at 6:07 am

    I’d heard of this earlier (and had wondered about the comparative lack of smashed bugs on my truck’s windshield from my trips to and from my Ozark cabin this year), but your image and question at the end are especially effective!


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