“It’s tough being an insect. They get swatted, stomped and sprayed without a thought. Their mere presence can provoke irrational panic. Even everyday language disparages them: “Stop bugging me,” we say.
To make matters worse for insects, they have also been sidelined legally in some states, with unintended but serious repercussions. The reason? According to many state statutes, insects are not considered wildlife.
The large marble butterfly is now locally extinct in some places. Rick and Nora Bowers/Alamy
Bees, butterflies and beetles pollinate plants, enrich soils and provide a critical protein source for species up the food chain. The United States Forest Service puts it simply: “Without pollinators, the human race and all of earth’s terrestrial ecosystems would not survive.”
Ecologically they are “the little things that run the world,” in the words of the biologist E.O. Wilson
But those little things are increasingly threatened. Scientists are reporting alarming declines in many species. Some insects appear especially vulnerable to climate change’s supercharged droughts and heat, which hit them hard in addition to chronic pressures like disappearing habitat, widespread pesticides and light pollution.
At the same time, conservation officials in at least 12 states — Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming — have their hands tied, legally speaking, when it comes to protecting insects. The creatures are simply left out of state conservation statues, or their situation is ambiguous.
“State agencies are really at the forefront of conservation for wildlife,” said Scott Black, executive director of the Xerces Society, a nonprofit group that advocates for insect conservation. “But in these states where they can’t work on insects, or in some cases any invertebrates, they don’t. So, you see things just languish.” “
David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT NYT comment:
This is a big story, thank you Catrin Einhorn. “The current rapid rate of extinction leads scientists to call what is happening now with some poetic license the “Sixth Extinction.” (1) Edward O. Wilson, the famous Harvard entomologist, or bug scholar, who just died in late 2021, wrote that at our present course of human growth, we might lose 50 to 80% of the earth’s species in the next 80 to 100 years. (2) Inside of his forecast, one could say, we might lose 80% of the world’s species in the next 80 years.” from a book David Lindsay Jr is about publish, on species extinction.