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Without insects, we’re doomed

Viktoria Rodriguez/Getty Images

Insects are dying out, says Simon Barnes in Tortoise. For most of us, “that seems pretty good news”: fewer flies and wasps. But the loss of insects is “horrifying”. Biologist Edward Wilson wrote: “If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed 10,000 years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.” The ecological services supplied by wild insects in the US are worth an estimated $57bn a year.

Insects are vital pollinators. Ninety per cent of flowering plants and 75% of all food crops depend on animal pollinators, mostly insects. In Sichuan, China, where insects are scarce, farmers are paying human workers to pollinate fruit trees by hand, using a paintbrush. Farmers in Central Valley, California, now bring in more than a million hives of domestic bees every spring to pollinate almond trees, at $200 a hive. We’re killing off our “life support” system through infrastructure, agriculture and climate change. A quarter of insect species in the UK could go extinct in the next decade. It’s time we start caring about their fate.