Bug Me No More?

bug art

Insect Art by Christopher Marley

“Climate change, loss of natural habitats and overexposure to pesticides are among the factors contributing to the decline of insects, including once-common species of flies, butterflies, beetles, bees and numerous others. More than two-thirds of all caddisfly populations have disappeared in the past decade.”
~ Johnny Wood

The smell of insect repellent pervaded the camp site and tainted the taste of the food. We had not chosen the site wisely, near the lake on flat ground that was a little too close to a boggy area. Our backpacks were heavy and we wanted to get some fishing in before dark.

The mosquitoes weren’t bad during the day, but as evening wore on, more and more found us. We added wet moss to the fire to make it smokier, but that affected us more than the swarms of mosquitoes and we swallowed mosquitoes as we breathed in the smoke. Finally, I crawled into my tent and hid in my sleeping bag, but the whining of the mosquitoes that followed me into the tent and the claustrophobic smell of insecticide made sleep unlikely. I heard someone in the next tent fruitlessly trying to chase down stray mosquitoes. The clapping sound didn’t make it any easier to relax and get to sleep.

Once, our son’s classmate had held a birthday party where the parents were invited, so we had trundled off in the summer heat to an exurban neighborhood where the party shared a barn with a few goats and chickens. The kids loved running around the sloppy barnyard and the old farmhouse had a kitchen large enough to accommodate a dozen kids and adults. The beginnings of a feast were laid out on the kitchen table while the kids played outside and the adults held their drinks and watched the kids from the adjoining dining room.

I was attracted to a buzzing noise from the kitchen and looked in. The double backdoor was open to accommodate the constant stream of kids and the mobs of flies from the barnyard had sensed the feast and swarmed the counters. The hostess was frantically waving a dish towel around but it only caused the wave of flies to rise and then settle as she moved on.

Unfortunately, we had to leave before dinner.

Whether in swarms or just whiny individuals, bugs are very often a pain — sometimes literally. It’s easy to think how great it would be if we could just get rid of all of them. The small Oklahoma town where I once lived had fogger trucks that drove the alleys at night, dispensing insecticide. Watching a movie in the local theater, we once suddenly saw smoke pouring into the theater through the air vents. Panic ensued — everyone thought we were on fire — until we realized that the fogger truck had passed near the theater’s AC intake.

But it turns out that insect populations are in a rapid decline — and that is not a good thing. Writer Johnny Wood reports, “In fact, over the past 50 years, an insect apocalypse may have killed off half of the planet’s bugs, according to a new report.” He continues, “Insects are a vital food source for birds and larger animals and are essential for pollinating crops and wildflowers … If the current rate of decline continues, it could have profound consequences for the planet and everything that lives on it – including humans.” We rely on insects to pollinate our crops, replenish our soils, and consume our wastes, not to mention bring beauty and mystery to our lives.

Environmental editor Damian Carrington reported on a recent study, “We strongly believe artificial light at night — in combination with habitat loss, chemical pollution, invasive species, and climate change — is driving insect declines,” the scientists concluded after assessing more than 150 studies. “We posit here that artificial light at night is another important — but often overlooked — bringer of the insect apocalypse.”

Rather than swatting mosquitoes or fogging our neighborhoods, Johnny Wood has some recommendations, “In urban areas, it is often more challenging for insects to thrive. But there are some practical things we can all do to help.”
“1. Grow plants
2. Create insect sanctuaries
3. Eat organic food
4. Turn off outside lights
5. Go green in the garden”

Remember, it’s not just mosquitoes and flies. Butterflies and moths, caddisflies and lightning bugs, cicadas and crickets, honey bees and dragonflies — nature is full of interesting and helpful creatures that enrich our lives and make them possible. Insects are a key participant in the web of life on earth, and we need to protect them.

Take care of your mother.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
Damian Carrington, Light Pollution Is Key ‘Bringer Of Insect Apocalypse’, Fri 22 Nov 2019, The Guardian
Steve Tarlton, Buggin’ Out, 2/15/19, Writes of Nature
Johnny Wood, There’s Been an Apocalypse Going on Right Under Our Noses — But We Can Still Save Their World, 25 Nov 2019, World Economic Forum

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