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More than 75% decline in flying insect biomass

Last week a piece of research was published that shocked the Seedball team.

A study conducted in Germany for the past 27 years has demonstrated that flying insect biomass has declined by 75%. Here are the key things that you need to know:

What did the researchers do in this study?

For the past 27 years researchers have looked at the biomass - the weight, not the total number - of flying insects in 63 protected natural areas in Germany. The researchers used malaise traps to catch the flying insects, which are tent like constructions that funnel insects into a collecting chamber to be weighed. The traps were deployed in the spring, summer and early autumn at different protected natural sites each year - the researchers did not need to deploy them on the same sites as they were interested in researching overall change across a large area, not year-on-year change at individual sites. The researchers also collected data on weather, land use and habitat type.

Photos from the researcher paper showing examples of operating malaise
traps in protected areas in western Germany

 

What did the researchers find out?

  • Flying insect biomass has declined by 76.7% over 27 years.
  • The average temperature increased by 0.5°C over the 27 years, it was expected that this would help to increase flying insect biomass, but it did not.
  • There were more flying insects on some habitats - for example nutrient-rich grasslands - but biomass still decreased across every habitat type.

 

Why are the results significant?

Declines in animal propulations have been tracked by lots of different studies before, but researchers have never seen such a dramatic decline in such a short space of time. This study was conducted in protected natural areas - protected natural areas are supposed to preserve biodiversity. On top of this, researchers did not look at specific species but flying insects in general. It is known that species that are specialised for particular habitats, for example, are experiencing declines, but this study looked at all flying insects.

The researchers are also unable to offer a clear reason as to why this dramatic decline is happening. It is suspected that climate may have a role. Even though the increased temperature seen in this study did not improve insect biomass, it is thought that associated factors, such as increased drought or lack of sunshine, may be playing a role. The researchers also think that agricultural intensification may be playing a part, so loss of habitat and changes in crop production, may be affecting insects in protected natural areas as well.

 

What can I do?

This study is alarming, but there is plenty that we can all do to help flying insects. It could be through increasing awareness to these declines, supporting growers who look for alternatives to pesticide use that affects pollinator species or backing your favourite insect charity.

In another recent study researchers demonstrated that honey production from suburban bee hives is producing higher yields than rural bee hives, and it is thought this is related to a increased variety of food sources in urban areas. So why not make sure your garden is a wildlife haven - provide space for insects, whether it's in an unruly corner, a handmade insect hotel or a wildflower patch. Don't wait until the spring #wildflowerwarriors, it's a great time to scatter Seedballs and get your garden ready for next year's guests!

It's time to grow a brighter future!

 


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More than 75% decline in flying insect biomass

Last week a piece of research was published that shocked the Seedball team.

A study conducted in Germany for the past 27 years has demonstrated that flying insect biomass has declined by 75%. Here are the key things that you need to know:

What did the researchers do in this study?

For the past 27 years researchers have looked at the biomass - the weight, not the total number - of flying insects in 63 protected natural areas in Germany. The researchers used malaise traps to catch the flying insects, which are tent like constructions that funnel insects into a collecting chamber to be weighed. The traps were deployed in the spring, summer and early autumn at different protected natural sites each year - the researchers did not need to deploy them on the same sites as they were interested in researching overall change across a large area, not year-on-year change at individual sites. The researchers also collected data on weather, land use and habitat type.

Photos from the researcher paper showing examples of operating malaise
traps in protected areas in western Germany

 

What did the researchers find out?

  • Flying insect biomass has declined by 76.7% over 27 years.
  • The average temperature increased by 0.5°C over the 27 years, it was expected that this would help to increase flying insect biomass, but it did not.
  • There were more flying insects on some habitats - for example nutrient-rich grasslands - but biomass still decreased across every habitat type.

 

Why are the results significant?

Declines in animal propulations have been tracked by lots of different studies before, but researchers have never seen such a dramatic decline in such a short space of time. This study was conducted in protected natural areas - protected natural areas are supposed to preserve biodiversity. On top of this, researchers did not look at specific species but flying insects in general. It is known that species that are specialised for particular habitats, for example, are experiencing declines, but this study looked at all flying insects.

The researchers are also unable to offer a clear reason as to why this dramatic decline is happening. It is suspected that climate may have a role. Even though the increased temperature seen in this study did not improve insect biomass, it is thought that associated factors, such as increased drought or lack of sunshine, may be playing a role. The researchers also think that agricultural intensification may be playing a part, so loss of habitat and changes in crop production, may be affecting insects in protected natural areas as well.

 

What can I do?

This study is alarming, but there is plenty that we can all do to help flying insects. It could be through increasing awareness to these declines, supporting growers who look for alternatives to pesticide use that affects pollinator species or backing your favourite insect charity.

In another recent study researchers demonstrated that honey production from suburban bee hives is producing higher yields than rural bee hives, and it is thought this is related to a increased variety of food sources in urban areas. So why not make sure your garden is a wildlife haven - provide space for insects, whether it's in an unruly corner, a handmade insect hotel or a wildflower patch. Don't wait until the spring #wildflowerwarriors, it's a great time to scatter Seedballs and get your garden ready for next year's guests!

It's time to grow a brighter future!

 


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