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Are world insect populations in catastrophic decline?

Bee collecting pollenBee collecting pollenRecent studies have confirmed that insect populations around the world are suffering a catastrophic decline. In 2017, entomologists (scientists who study insects) in Germany published the results of a long-term study which found that the abundance of flying insects has plunged by more than 75% in 27 years. Taken together with evidence showing the steep decline in the numbers of bees and butterflies in Europe and the US, a worrying pattern is emerging. Aware of the vital role insects play in world ecosystems, some scientists are predicting that an ecological disaster lies ahead.

Malaise trap (Photo: Pmau)Malaise trap (Photo: Pmau)

The evidence

On summer car journeys during the 1960s and 70s, drivers in Europe found that their windscreen would quickly become caked with squashed flies, gnats, mosquitoes and moths. Today, however, even after long journeys, windscreens remain mostly clean. Now a recent study has provided some alarming evidence to confirm what is known as "the windscreen phenomenon".

The research is based on the painstaking work of dozens of amateur entomologists across Germany. Since 1989, they have used special tents, called malaise traps, to capture samples of all flying insects at 63 different nature reserves across the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

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