Insects, considered vital to the food chain, are slowly disappearing, at a rate of 1% to 2% each year in some parts of the world, according to researchers, who are urging the general public to lend a helping hand. We're already seeing "death by a thousand cuts," says David Wagner, a University of Connecticut entomologist and author of one of 12 reports on what some term the "insect apocalypse," published Monday in PNAS. Those cuts include climate change, insecticides and herbicides, human population growth, light pollution, invasive species, and deforestation, reports the CBC. Researchers aren't in a place to say that the rate of loss is greater than with other species. But the world has "spent the last 30 years spending billions of dollars finding new ways to kill insects and mere pennies working to preserve them," says University of Delaware entomologist Doug Tallamy.
People may be aware of threats to honeybees and monarch butterflies, which are real and concerning. But research shows insects overall are declining at an alarming rate. Some areas could even lose up to a third of all insects within two decades, per National Geographic. That poses risks for humans, who rely on pollinated crops, and other species that prey on insects, including most bats, birds, and freshwater fish. People can help out by pushing for new climate change legislation and conservation, limiting the use of pesticides and herbicides, or converting lawn to an insect habitat, complete with native plants, fallen leaves, twigs, and fruit, according to one report. "If every home, school, and local park in the United States converted 10% of their lawn space into natural habitat, this would increase usable habitat for insects by more than 4 million acres," it reads. (Read more insects stories.)