We need action to reverse the decline of insects

Common carder bumblebee by Nick Upton/2020VISION

Insects are dying out up to 8 times faster than larger animals and 41% of insect species face extinction states a new report commissioned by our Wildlife Trust colleagues in the southwest...

Today a number of Wildlife Trusts and partners have collaborated to launch the Action for Insects campaign to coincide with the launch of an important new report, Insect Declines and Why They Matter authored by invertebrate expert Dave Goulson, Professor of Biology at the University of Sussex.

Across the country, insects have been in significant and long-term decline.  In the UK:

  • 23 species of bee and flower-visiting wasp species have gone extinct in the UK since 1850
  • The geographic ranges of many bumblebee species more than halved between 1960 and 2012.
  • Numbers of butterflies fell by 46% between 1976 and 2017, with declines running at 77% in ‘habitat specialist species’ such as marsh fritillaries and wood white butterflies.
  • The abundance of larger moths such as the garden tiger dwindled by 28% between 1968 and 2007

Do you remember a time when you went for a long trip in the car and the windscreen would be covered in insects?  It’s been a long time since I can remember this. 

The new report highlights two main factors for this decline.  The first is the loss of natural and semi-natural habitats that have been cleared for homes, for business and for recreation as well as for farming.  The second factor is the overuse of pesticides - not only by those managing land for farming but also in homes and by those responsible for managing our green spaces, including councils.

Despite these significant concerns, the report also sets out a clear way forward to stop and reverse this worrying decline.  It calls on:

  • The public to stop using pesticides in gardens and allotments as well to look towards managing gardens to provide more food, water and habitats for insects and other wildlife.
  • Government to commit to a strong, enforceable and well-resourced Environment Bill and an Agriculture Bill that support and rewards farmers for biodiversity improvements and sets targets for the reduction of pesticide use.
  • Local authorities to phase out the use of pesticides in urban areas, to plant fruit trees, wildflowers and other food and water sources for insects and to reduce the mowing of verges and roundabouts.
  • Farmers and land managers to use pollinator-friendly seed mixes and move to alternative approaches to tackle weed and pest problems.
The number of pesticide applications has approximately doubled over the last 25 years.

So, what are we doing about it here in Worcestershire? 

We have produced a range of great information on our website to help people to garden for wildlife and are encouraging everyone to get involved; can you Pledge a Patch of your garden, however small, to wildlife?

With a general election underway, there is no better time to call on candidates across Worcestershire to support our calls for a strong and ambitious Environment Act and a Wilder Future for us all

We are working with farmers and land managers through our Wild Pollinators project in the Shrawley and Bow Brook areas to develop habitats and nesting sites for native pollinators. We are also working at our Monkwood nature reserve to reintroduce ‘habitat specialist species’ such as the wood white butterfly alongside our friends Butterfly Conservation.

We are committing to work to reverse this decline.  Will you?

Every space in Britain must be used to help wildlife.
Sir David Attenborough

Insect declines and why they matter by Professor Dave Goulson