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Demise of our Flying Insects

Grass Clippings - Demise of The BugsJust as in any sci-fi disaster movie, the first signs of impending doom seem perfectly unremarkable.

Someone mentions in passing he’s noticed that while driving through the countryside, or on long-distance motorway trips, his car windscreen doesn’t get spattered by insects like it used to.

A scientist overhears and is intrigued by the observation. He is a Dutch ecologist called Caspar Hallmann and he decides to investigate. What he uncovers is an alarming global threat that he calls ‘the windscreen phenomenon’.

It was, indeed, anecdotal reports of cleaner windscreens that inspired Hallmann and his team at Radboud University in The Netherlands to conduct the world’s first study of flying insect numbers. The results, published this week, indicate that the European insect population has fallen by three-quarters in less than 30 years.

To some of us that might seem a boon. Our family picnics on the Sussex Downs are no longer plagued by wasps, as they were in my childhood. And far less effort is spent scraping off the distended corpses of the multiple airborne pests that used to weld themselves to the car’s windscreen.

For me as a motorcyclist, it means less risk of being hit in the neck by bees on days when it’s too warm for a scarf. At 80mph, it’s like someone has thrown a brick at you.

So what is the cause? The Dutch researchers, whose work is published in the journal Plos One, focused on 63 nature reserves in Germany but say their findings can be extrapolated across all European landscapes dominated by agriculture.

They found the dramatic decline is happening regardless of habitat, land use or the weather, leaving them at a loss to explain what lies behind it.

The scientific evidence points to neonicotinoid insecticides. These novel insect killers employ a sophisticated form of chemical warfare that stops brain cells working, leading to paralysis and death.

Before 2000, neonicotinoid chemicals were virtually unknown. Yet in the space of 20 years they’ve become the most widely used class of agricultural insecticides.

The interesting fact is that the temporary EU trial ban on the sale and use of these Neonicotinoids has only been in force for the past two years and flying insects are still in their decline. 

Read more on The Daily Mail

 

 

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