Is it my imagination or are there very few insects about this summer? I cannot remember when I last saw so few, of every sort, except perhaps for bees. This is ironic because there is great concern over the health of both honeybee and wild bee populations, but where are the butterflies, beetles and even midges and mosquitoes?
The Royal Society of Biology is worried enough to be asking people to look out for insects and to vote for their favourite species. This follows their previous survey on flying ants. The poll similar to the recent one to find the nation’s favourite bird, in that the candidates have already been reduced to a short-list of ten. With more than 20,000 species to choose from in Britain this is perhaps is the only practical approach. It does mean though that if it is your favourite you can’t vote for the red-tailed bumblebee, the nearest candidate is the buff-tailed bumblebee.
The ten candidates are the seven-spot ladybird, the garden tiger moth and its ‘woolly bear’ caterpillar, the small tortoiseshell butterfly, the black garden ant, the buff-tailed bumblebee, the large bee-fly (a bee mimic), the marmalade hoverfly, the green shieldbug, the stag beetle and the emperor dragonfly. No room for grasshoppers, lacewings or earwigs, amongst many others.
The Society says “Many of our insect species are threatened as a result of loss of habitat, climate change, pollution, the presence of invasive species and the use of pesticides. Now, more than ever, they need our attention, protection and conservation. Everyone can do their bit to help.”
The point about this initiative is to bring home to everyone just how important insects are to our way of life, and how difficult life would be without them. The problems caused by the relatively few pest species is far outweighed by the benefits of the group as a whole. This column has emphasised the importance of pollinators, but insects do so much more. For example dung beetles and flies move mountains of animal droppings, scavenging insects consume huge quantities of other waste material, and the group as a whole is at the base of many food chains including ours - millions of people eat insects as part of their daily diet.
Cast your vote at rsb.org.uk