Where Have All The Butterflies Gone


I remember as a child playing in my Grandparents backyard catching June Bugs and admiring how shiny they are. But mostly, I remember all the Monarch butterflies fluttering from flower to flower. My grandfather never let me catch them, telling me that they were too delicate, handling them would ruin their wings and they would never be able take flight again. So, I would just watch them as they busied about. It wasn’t until I was older, at an age to appreciate why he was so passionate, that he talked about the importance of the pollinators and the decomposers in the garden.

The years have passed, and the abundance of butterflies seem to be a distant memory from the days of old. Growing up I never thought I would ever hear about Entomologists and scientists studying the decline in insect populations. Let alone talking about their concern about a human-caused Holocene extinction. Look that word up! For me, initially I was like hey, let’s face it, the estimated ratio of insects to humans is 200 million to one. Why should I be concerned?

The answer to my question is perfectly clear. The facts are is that several studies, mostly European studies, report what appears to be a substantial decline in insect populations. Some of the insects most effected include bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, dragonflies and damselflies.

A study in 2019 by Statistics Netherlands and the DBC of butterfly numbers in the Netherlands reported that from 1890 to 2017 the butterfly numbers declined an estimated 84 percent! That decline was attributed to changes in land use as more efficient farming methods were established causing a decline in weeds. Most of the studies documented, suggested causes in the decline were attributed to habitat destruction, pesticide use, introduced species, climate change and artificial lighting.

There have been many responses to the decline over the years as well as conservation measures taking place. Chris D. Thomas, president of the Royal Entomological Society and other scientists have warned of the need for joined-up-thinking. They warned that excessive focus on reducing pesticide use could be counterproductive. Pests already cause a 35 percent yield loss for crops, which can rise to 70 percent when pesticides are not used. To compensate for that, agricultural land would need to be expanded, causing more deforestation and other habitat destruction which could exacerbate insect decline.

As of today, strangely enough, there is a decline of insect studies. The reason for that is that there is a decline in entomology and taxonomy. Leading entomologist Jurgen Gross said, “We are ourselves an endangered species” and Wolfgang Wagele an expert in systematic zoology said “in the universities we have lost nearly all experts”. It is said that general biology courses in college give less attention to insects, and the number of biologists specializing in entomology is decreasing as specialties such as genetics expand. I personally hope that changes soon as insects are at the very forefront of our existence.

Rest assure that at Truckee Meadows Pest Control, we are always aware of the environmental issues facing us. We are diligent in keeping up with the latest technology to keep our customers and the environment safe, priding ourselves in practicing Integrated Pest Management. We strive in educating our customers and community to do the same, because we are pest control professionals and control is what it’s all about.

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