Jon Entine | July 27, 2021
For the past four years, journalists and environmental bloggers have been churning out story after story that insects are vanishing, in the United States and globally. Limited available evidence lends credence to reasonable concerns not least because insects are crucial components of many ecosystems.
But the issue has often been framed in catastrophic terms, with predictions of a near-inevitable and imminent ecological collapse that would undermine global biodiversity, destroy harvests and trigger widespread starvation. Most of the solutions would require a dramatic retooling of many aspects of modern life, from urbanization to agriculture.
Considering the disruptive economic and social trade-offs being demanded by some who promote the crisis hypothesis, it’s prudent to seperate genuine threats from agenda-driven hyperbole. How ecologically threatening are insect declines? Should we be in ‘catastrophic crisis’ mode? What should we as a collective society responsibly do?
Roots of the crisis narrative
The recent hyper-focus on insects traces back to a 2017 study conducted by an obscure German entomological society that claimed that flying insects in German nature reserves had decreased by 76 percent over just 26 years. The study, co-authored by twelve scientists, lit a fire in advocacy circles and became the sixth-most-discussed scientific paper of that year, and remains popular.............Perhaps the inflammatory rhetoric, which continues today, is justified. Or maybe not. .........
Insectageddon is a great read. But what are the facts?
The Times essay read like a convincing polemic, but the ‘catastrophe narrative’ fell flat with the science community, which has spent much of the last four years trying to tame the consequent hysteria...........Of one of the major studies used to promote the apocalypse narrative (“Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers”, by Sanchez-Bayo and Wychkhuys, discussed below), Sanders noted an appallingly selective and apparently willful misrepresentation and manipulation of the data:...................Professor Sanders has written a stunning 4-part series on what she sees as the manipulation by narrative-promoting journalists and scientists [see: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4].
Roots of the crisis narrative
It’s important to understand how we got from the consensus ‘there is fragmentary but concerning evidence’ of insect declines to ‘the world faces imminent collapse’. The global insect crisis narrative dates back more than a decade, and was originally focused on alarming reports beginning in 2006 of a surge in honeybee mortality............ By 2018, almost every major news organization, from the Washington Post (‘’Believe it or not, the bees are doing just fine”) to Slate (‘The Bees are Alright”) and including many environmental publications such as Grist (“Why the bee crisis isn’t as bad as you think’) were sheepishly acknowledging there never was an imminent worldwide honeybee catastrophe. The New York Times was conspicuously one of the few news outlets to not reconsider its crisis narrative..................
Are pesticides the problem?
Those exaggerations have been challenged repeatedly by high-quality papers and real-world evidence. But while claims of pending “-pocalypses” occasionally have been walked back by the media, rarely has this been done with the same gusto with which they headlined each successive “Armageddon” ..................Dave Goulson has a controversial reputation in the science community. As the GLP has previously reported, he is an admitted scientist-for-hire, who has produced research with a promised, pre-determined conclusion for activist organizations.............
What do mainstream insect experts conclude?
................While threats to certain species do exist in certain locations, that doesn’t support claims that we face a broad, global population collapse among insects.
North American insect populations are stable
The deficiencies of these studies when it came to identifying global trends encouraged a team of 12 researchers led by Matthew Moran at Hendrix College in Arkansas to examine the situation in North America................: “There is no evidence of precipitous and widespread insect abundance declines in North America akin to those reported from some sites in Europe.” ........In the press release announcing the study — “Insect Apocalypse May Not be Happening in the US” — University of Georgia postdoctoral researcher Matthew Crossley stated, “No matter what factor we looked at, nothing could explain the trends in a satisfactory way.” ...........To Read More, Much More......