By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership
Last week, a multinational team of European scientists released the disturbing results of a study of insect populations tested throughout Germany. Their data confirmed a major environmental concern, showing that flying insects – including flies, bees, and butterflies – had decreased in biomass by roughly 75% over the last 27 years. Though pollinator decline has been recognized for some time, this research throws the problem into stark contrast.
The global decline in flying insects is hitting Minnesota strongly. Judy Chucker, a member of the Izaak Walton League’s Minnesota Division, calls it a “quiet disaster.” During the past summer, she traveled with fellow members to farmland in southeastern Minnesota, and says that in contrast to previous years, there were “no bugs on the windshield. Not many birds there, either.” However, she added, “when we got to organic farm areas, it was a different story – we started to see insects and birds again.”
The loss of these insects is quiet, but it is indeed an imminent disaster. Insects help form the foundation of ecosystems around the world – birds, fish, and other important species depend on them to survive – humans included. According to a League of Women Voters-Minnesota briefing paper, honeybees alone enable over 90% of American crops to reproduce, and pollinators in general contribute more than $24 billion to the U.S. economy. It’s abundantly clear that the dramatic decline in insect species spells danger for all other ecosystems and human life.
While a number of factors are causing insects to die off, it’s clear that pesticides are a major cause. Commonly-used pesticides, including neonicotinoids, permeate the environment. These pesticides kill grasshoppers, flies, bees, and butterflies without distinction. And the elimination of safe, pesticide-free habitat in both urban and rural areas is destroying remaining safe havens for these vulnerable species.
In Minnesota, we agree that we need to protect our pollinators. According to MEP polling from February 2017, 87% of Minnesotans are concerned about the disappearance of pollinators, and a majority favor steps to restrict harmful pesticides to alleviate the problem. But so far, the political will to enact scientifically-backed solutions has not gathered enough steam to tackle this issue. For the sake of our farms, our great outdoors, and our way of life, we need to make sure our leaders take action to slow and halt the insect decline – and soon.
More resources from MEP members working on pollinator protection:
- Pollinator Friendly Alliance
- Izaak Walton League of America, Minnesota Division
- Pesticide Action Network – North America
- Learn more about these and other groups fighting for pollinators at mepartnership.org