Some years from now, an aspiring Kafka trying to write the destiny of a Gregor Samsa, may struggle to come up with the “giant insect” Samsa could metamorphose into. As a recent global scientific study has revealed, all of the planet’s insects could go extinct within a century. There would literally be no immediate frame of reference for insects in the human mind.
The study, ‘Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers’, has been published in the journal, Biological Conservation. Researchers discovered that over 40 per cent of insect species could go extinct in the next few decades — this extinction rate is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. Lepidoptera, Hymenoptera and dung beetles (Coleoptera) are the taxa most affected. Intensive agriculture, agro-chemical pollutants, invasive species and climate change are listed as significant triggers. Lepidoptera, the order of insects that includes butterflies and moths, seems to have suffered the most. Bees (belonging to the Hymenoptera order) have been equally hard hit. Incidentally, the EU had last year banned Neonicotinoids — compounds that comprise the most popular type of insecticides. In 2017, a worldwide study published in the journal Science showed that 75 per cent of honey samples collected across multiple countries contained neonicotinoid insecticides. Studues closer to home have substantiated the grim narrative of bee colonies disappearing.
All insects help to maintain the intricate balance nature has in place. Many invertebrates, for example, including a host of insects, are particular about the kind of soil they inhabit. Their absence can be a serious indicator of soil health. Conservation initiatives should try to create more visible awareness of such studies and the tangible impact they will have on human life if such a slide in insect numbers worldwide continues unabated.