The world has lost 5% to 10% of all insect species in the last 150 years — or between 250,000 and 500,000 species, according to a Feb 2020 study in the journal Biological Conservation. Those losses are continuing, though estimates vary due to patchy data. (@ClimateBen)

As human activities rapidly transform the planet, the global insect population is declining at an unprecedented rate of up to 2% per year. Amid deforestation, pesticide use, artificial light pollution and climate change, these critters are struggling — along with the crops, flowers and other animals that rely on them to survive.

Insects are crucial to the food web, feeding birds, reptiles and mammals such as bats. But insects are so much more than food. Farmers depend on these critters pollinating crops and churning soil to keep it healthy, among other activities.

With fewer insects, “we’d have less food,” said ecologist Dave Goulson at the University of Sussex. “We’d see yields dropping of all of (global) crops.”

And in nature, about 80% of wild plants rely on insects for pollination. “If insects continue to decline,” Goulson said, “expect some pretty dire consequences for ecosystems generally — and for people.”

As insects disappear, “we’re losing the limbs and the twigs of the tree of life. We’re tearing it apart. And we’re leaving behind a very simplified and ugly tree,” says entomologist David Wagner, who works at the University of Connecticut.

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