Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
The German Amateurs Who Discovered ‘Insect Armageddon’ (nytimes.com)
136 points by sohkamyung on Dec 5, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 74 comments

This study appears to be an alarmist rehash of what was previously discussed on HN:


Here's one of the original papers:


The 75% decline number appears to be from two data points from a 220-acre plot. From that paper:

"What follows is a description of measured Insect-Biomasses from samples collected in the Orbroich Bruch Nature Reserve, near Krefeld, using Malaise Insect Traps. The results show that, in the same two areas, sampled in the years 1989 and 2013, there was a dramatic fall in the number of flying insects. Using the same traps, in the same areas, significant reductions of insect populations, of more than 75%, were found. Our data confirms, that in the areas studied, less than 25% of the original number of flying insects collected in 1989, were still present in 2013."

"The Orboicher Bruch, to the Northwest of Krefeld, is a designated Nature Reserve of around 100 hectares (220 acres). Due to the reserve’s relatively remote location and its rugged landscape, intensive farming came to the area only recently."

So alarmists are extrapolating from two data points (years 1989 and 2013) for a 220-hectare plot of German farmland to the entire world. I think that is a bit of a stretch, even for statistics.

Since different bugs breed in different seasons, and numbers depend on the fruitfulness of previous generations, food supply, predation, disease, temperature and so on, this bug weight could vary considerably from year to year (or site to site) for any number of reasons. While one year cicadas thrive, the next year there may be none.

BTW they're measuring the weight of dead bugs - not how many bugs or what species of bugs - just the weight of bugs. Actually they're not even measuring that, they're measuring the weight of dead bugs' soaked in 70-80% alcohol.

I could go on and on about controls in statistical experiments but I think you get the idea.

See the original HN posting for discussions pointers to the earlier papers.

I'm not able to access your link to the original paper (access problems on my end, possibly), but this write up on PlosONE [1] on the group's results seems to paint a different picture:

Global declines in insects have sparked wide interest among scientists, politicians, and the general public. Loss of insect diversity and abundance is expected to provoke cascading effects on food webs and to jeopardize ecosystem services. Our understanding of the extent and underlying causes of this decline is based on the abundance of single species or taxonomic groups only, rather than changes in insect biomass which is more relevant for ecological functioning. Here, we used a standardized protocol to measure total insect biomass using Malaise traps, deployed over 27 years in 63 nature protection areas in Germany (96 unique location-year combinations) to infer on the status and trend of local entomofauna. Our analysis estimates a seasonal decline of 76%, and mid-summer decline of 82% in flying insect biomass over the 27 years of study. We show that this decline is apparent regardless of habitat type, while changes in weather, land use, and habitat characteristics cannot explain this overall decline. This yet unrecognized loss of insect biomass must be taken into account in evaluating declines in abundance of species depending on insects as a food source, and ecosystem functioning in the European landscape.

[1] http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal....

This study confirms empirical observation all around. Insects are disappearing. Birds are disappearing (populations are down 50 to 60% for many species). Large animals are disappearing. Soils are disappearing. Fish are disappearing. The situation is quite obviously of imminent global catastrophe, but you can harp until the end about "alarmist predictions".

Here on HN we need to back such affirmations with data. The bolder the affirmations, the more solid the data-backed proof need to be.

If we were to exchange "philosophical" considerations here, I'd tell you that sunday fishermen have complained weekly that there was much more fish in the river before since the dawn of humanity. I'd also tell you that my own home in downtown Beijing has seen a slug invasion this year, and that these animals are not disappearing at all (at least in my courtyard).

That's a symptom of ecological upset too. One species flourishing when another dies off, and the resulting wild cycles. Not a good sign.

Here's a good article on that topic:

Planet of weeds Tallying the losses of Earth’s animals and plants By David Quammen/Harpers Magazine


Googling, a lot of the articles on species decline seem to point to the World Wildlife Foundation and The Living Planet, a survey published as a joint collaboration between the WWF and the Institute of Zoology.

Obviously, there is probably some bias due to this being in part from a conservation advocacy group. However, the methodology does appear to be documented in a peer-reviewed paper [2]. So I'd personally give it a fair more weight than mere anecdote.

[1] https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/living-planet-report-201... [2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1569448/

open up google maps and search for Philadelphia. Click satellite at the bottom left. pan to the left. you should see ~40% of the area is green. you are still mostly within the city. pan left again. your in the suburbs (only an hour out) and its mostly houses and trees. a few more pans and you have nothing but forest.

if you keep panning, you'll find yourself looking at mostly forest and farmland with the former prevailing. you may find an occasional city, but the vast of what you will find is nature for the next 1700 miles. by then you reached the rocky moutains and things start to get a bit drier.

Nature is ok. nature is not dead. and as per comments bellow, you do not take two data points and extrapolate a linear prediction and expect anything meaningful. let alone from one small area in Germany, using a methodology that has not been widely tested. its certainly cause for additional research.

That is a realllyy simplistic way of looking at things that doesn't at all speak to the issue at hand.

Is there still lots of plant cover? Sure. But when you get into what types of environments are intact and healthy enough to support the normal fauna, we start to see problems. So there may be forest, but there may now be a tremendous drop in the amount of wildlife in the forest because the food chain has been badly damaged.

Insects form the foundation of many ecosystems and massive drops in insect biomass would be devastating to all of the animals up that food chain. And there are a number of reasons insects can be disappearing from pesticides, to loss of specific species of plants, to air pollution.

Even if we continue on our path of anthropomorphic mass extinctions, life on Earth will adapt and move on, that's not in question. But Earth may not be very hospitable for human kind if we don't change course.

I think what that misses though is that human growth has been exponential for some time now, and if it remains exponential then even if we've only tapped 12.5% of the earths productivity, we've only got 3 doublings left before we hit the proverbial wall. I think that it could be true that there is more nature left than we think, but also be true that there is less time left than we think.

Ehrlich predicted worldwide famine in the 70s due to the population. he was wrong. Malthus predicted worldwide famine in the 18th century. he was wrong.

Populations become more educated, have fewer children. The power of technology and bio technology grows at a far faster rate than population. In the 1920s an acre of land would get you about 40-50 bushels of corn. A short 100 years into the future and we're averaging 180-190. We have barely even scratched the service when it comes to advancing the base breeding stock with genetics. Biotech traits (roundup ready, etc) have given us a big boost, but they too are just the tip of the iceberg. CRISPR is going to make yields skyrocket.

I know the news loves showing you doom and gloom, but really, humans have never had it better and it isn't going to stop.

More awesome statistics here: http://www.humanprogress.org/

We're getting those crazy yields because of fossil fuel based fertilizer, which could be replaced but only by some other equivalent source of external nitrogen.

My background is in physics, and in physics we deal with constraints- thermodynamics, conservation of energy, and so on. I'm telling you that no matter what technology we develop certain constraints are inescapable. Crop yields can only increase so much. If we restrict the domain of discussion to the surface of the earth, then we're left with limits. That doesn't necessarily imply a Malthusian scenario! But it means that we need to plan for a time when exponential growth is no longer the rule. I mean, there is nothing normal or sustainable about this wacky, unbalanced moment of time that we live in. I don't know how it ends- with a plateau or a bust- but sometime I would say this century it has to end. Look: if you assume 3% year on year productivity growth per person, in around 700 years every person is producing as much goods and services as all 7 billion of us do today. That's clearly preposterous. Your fingers could not move fast enough to write that much code, compose that much music, and your little human brain could not appreciate it all anyway if everyone was producing that much art, let alone all the physical work. The question is just how long we have left before that growth flattens out, and what happens next.

Maybe its already happening. Automation is advancing at breathtaking speed, not only putting American labor out of work but Indian and Chinese as well. In far less time than 700 years, we have to adapt to a 'post-scarcity economy' and whatever that entails. Its all going to change in 20-30 years.

Human growth is slowing and soon we'll have a population decline, topping out at 10 billion or so.

> empirical observation

> quite obviously

I don't know about you, but for me such words are huge red flags - especially without hard data.

OK, so you want to play this game. Now please provide those reports about life thriving everywhere.

Birds populations face steep decline https://news.stanford.edu/news/2005/january12/birds-011205.h...

Common Birds in Steep Decline List https://www.allaboutbirds.org/state-of-the-birds-2014-common...

Global collapse in huge songbird population https://www.uni-muenster.de/news/view.php?cmdid=7720

Dramatic decline of bird population in Germany https://www.nabu.de/news/2017/10/23284.html

Sharp decline of birds in UK https://ww2.rspb.org.uk/our-work/conservation/centre-for-con...

Towards understanding large mammal population declines in Africa’s protected areas https://tropicalconservationscience.mongabay.com/content/v4/...

Global decline in aggregated migrations of large terrestrial mammals http://www.int-res.com/articles/esr2009/7/n007p055.pdf

Marine Fish Population Collapses https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/54/4/297/284117

Has Half of World's Wildlife Been Lost in Past 40 Years? https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/09/1409030-ani...

Marine population halved since 1970 http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-34265672

Half of Great Barrier Reef Lost in Past 3 Decades https://www.livescience.com/23612-great-barrier-reef-steep-d...

> OK, so you want to play this game.

Since when asking for sources is "playing a game"?

It's playing a game when one uses it as an excuse to not respect the other party in a charitable discussion. That is, you don't need a source if you accept that the other party is acting honestly in the discussion.

Asking for sources so that you can examine the data yourself is admirable. Asking for sources because certain words "trigger red flags" for you that the other party is not acting in good faith is a different problem.

"In philosophy and rhetoric, the principle of charity requires interpreting a speaker's statements to be rational and, in the case of any argument, considering its best, strongest possible interpretation."

If you weren't "playing a game" then why haven't you addressed his sources? Or provided your own?

Because you can ask questions and make observations without taking a side.

If it makes you happier, these results confirms what me and my family simply see in an adjacent country (anecdotal evidence from several data points). There are barely any bugs. Mosquitos used to be a nuisance, everyone shared tips how to protect against them. You don't have to anymore, you can leave windows open at night. There was buzzing all over the garden, now you have to look close to spot a bug.

anecdotal evidence from my pesticide free farm, this year I've had massive amount of bugs. Hundreds if not thousands of butterflies, massive house/horse fly problems, ant invasions, moths clogging up my plant propagator pumps, frog population explosion (there are now frogs in my office when people come visit me, they get "woken up" and I have to explain to them), massive bird population. Its 33f right now, and I see them flying around on my security camera system - so much I've had to disable the motion detection system the entire year because it is completely worthless even with the latest detection algorithm, with several cameras having massive spider webs because the bugs are attracted to the IR light. It could be a massive die off of bugs, but not here (Oregon).

> my pesticide free farm

Well of course. I suspect insects of every type are now doing the equivalent of war-driving to find Monsanto free areas they can live.

Monsanto is a herbicide vendor, not a pesticide vendor.

Not everything you dislike about the ag sector is Monsantos doing.

> Monsanto is a herbicide vendor, not a pesticide vendor.

1) Entirely pedantic, but Monsanto certainly is a pesticide vendor. They aren't an insecticide vendor (which is what you meant), but herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides all fall under the umbrella of "pesticides."

2) canada_dry talked about finding "Monsanto free areas," and that's still accurate. The monoculture cropping that makes herbicides necessary eliminates all the "non-productive" plants that act as habitat for pest-controlling predator species, making pesticides necessary. Monsanto may not make insecticides, but their business model depends on an agriculture system that inevitably leads to using insecticides.

Wait, is it really true that monoculture inevitably leads to pests? Yes, because ecological niches have been left unfilled, so nature steps in to fill them. Monoculture farms being overrun by pests is as unsurprising to an ecologist as an inverted broomstick falling over is to a physicist. You created an unstable system, and it's trying to return to equilibrium.

At that point you have two options. You can spend the rest of your life balancing the broomstick, or you can lean it against a wall. We can spend the remaining lifespan of our [relatively young] global civilization tilling and pouring biocides on 40% of Earth's land surface (and an assuredly short lifespan it will be, as the soils erode away,[1] deforestation shuts down the terrestrial water cycle,[2] the continents desertify,[3][4] and the aquifers deplete[5]), or we can adopt stable polyculture food growing systems that intentionally fill those open ecological niches with productive species.

Ecosystem engineering (working with nature) vs open-loop, leaking, unsustainable systems that only benefits chemical manufacturers and distributors.

[1] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/only-60-years-of-...

[2] http://www.nature.com/articles/nature11983

[3] http://www.forestclimate.org/desert.html

[4] http://www.sustainabilitylabs.org/ecosystem-restoration/lear...

[5] https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/08/140819-grou...

Not only that, but monoculture is bee bonanza one time of the year and a wasteland in the rest. Unsurprisingly, bees need to eat the whole year, and they prefer a variety of plants and flowers which mature at different times. A diversified garden or farm supplies them thorough the year.

Bees are not the worst case because they can make honey to prepare for lean times. Insects which don't stockpile long-term reserves are out of luck.

Is this advertisement for Monsanto?

Humans have been trying to get rid of pests for centuries, Monsanto didn't start it.

That's like saying: Humans have fought each other with weapons since the beginning of time. Nukes are just another weapon...

You're right, Monsanto didn't start it. They ended it.

> (there are now frogs in my office when people come visit me, they get "woken up" and I have to explain to them)

How do you explain to your frogs that you woke them up?

I imagine they wanted to say that they apologize to their frogs for waking them up :)

Well the garden I mentioned is close to a busy street. It could be the increase in traffic.

I'm happy to hear about your insect diversity. I hope if you ever get fed up with them you'll use natural countermeasures, such as installing bird nesting booths (a great tit catches over 300 bugs per day...and it sounds nice). I mean in Africa they're starting to use bee hives to deter elephants from farms, surely you can't be worse. May the frogs and spiders be on your side.

This is just one preliminary "teaser" paper by the group, not the scientific paper published later that got so much media attention. Here it is: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal..... Also, measuring the mass of dead bugs is an acceptable method to measure insect population (you then either have a decline of the number or the weight) and the decline has been consistent and constant as well as conforming other long-time studies.

From their "methods and materials" section:

> Biomass data were collected and archived using a standardized protocol across 63 unique locations between 1989 and 2016 (resulting in 96 unique location-year combinations) by the Entomological Society Krefeld. The standardized protocol of collection has been originally designed with the idea of integrating quantitative aspects of insects in the status assessment of the protected areas, and to construct a long-term archive in order to preserve (identified and not-identified) specimens of local diversity for future studies. In the present study, we consider the total biomass of flying insects to assess the state of local entomofauna as a group.

> All trap locations were situated in protected areas, but with varying protection status: 37 locations are within Natura2000 sites, seven locations within designated Nature reserves, nine locations within Protected Landscape Areas (with funded conservation measures), six locations within Water Protection Zones, and four locations of protected habitat managed by Regional Associations. For all location permits have been obtained by the relevant authorities, as listed in the S1 Appendix. In our data, traps located in nutrient-poor heathlands, sandy grasslands, and dune habitats provide lower quantities of biomass as compared to nutrient nutrient-rich grasslands, margins and wastelands. As we were interested in whether the declines interact with local productivity, traps locations were pooled into 3 distinct habitat clusters, namely: nutrient-poor heathlands, sandy grassland, and dunes (habitat cluster 1, n = 19 locations, Fig 1A), nutrient-rich grasslands, margins and wasteland (habitat cluster 2, n = 41 locations, Fig 1B) and a third habitat cluster that included pioneer and shrub communities (n = 3 locations).

> Most locations (59%, n = 37) were sampled in only one year, 20 locations in two years, five locations in three years, and one in four years, yielding in total 96 unique location-year combinations of measurements of seasonal total flying insect biomass. Our data do not represent longitudinal records at single sites, suitable to derive location specific trends (e.g. [28]). Prolonged trapping across years is in the present context (protected areas) deemed undesirable, as the sampling process itself can negatively impact local insect stocks. However, the data do permit an analysis at a higher spatial level, i.e. by treating seasonal insect biomass profiles as random samples of the state of entomofauna in protected areas in western Germany.

> Malaise traps were deployed through the spring, summer and early autumn. They operated continuously (day and night), and catches were emptied at regular intervals, on average every 11.2 days (sd = 6.3). We collected in total 1503 trap samples, with an average of 16 (4–35) successive catches per location-year combination (Table 1). Between 1989 and 2016, a total of 53.54kg of invertebrates have been collected and stored, over a total trap exposure period of 16908 days, within an average of 176 exposure days per location-year combination. Malaise traps are known to collect a much wider diversity of insect species (e.g. [29–31]) as compared to suction traps (e.g. [28]) and are therefore considered superior as a method of collecting flying insects. On the basis of partial assessments, we can assume that the total number of insects included in 53.54 kg biomass represents millions of individuals.

> The sampling was standardized in terms of trap construction, size and design (identical parts), colors, type of netting and ground sealing, trap orientation in the field as well as slope at the trap location. Hence none of the traps differed in any of these field aspects. Our trap model was similar to the bi-colored malaise trap model by Henry Townes [32, 33]. The traps, collecting design, and accompanying methods of biomass measurement as designed and applied by the Entomological Society Krefeld are described elsewhere [34–36] and in S2 Appendix.

> Trap catches were stored in 80% ethanol solution, prior to weighing, and total insect biomass of each catch (bottle) was obtained based on a standardized measurement protocol by first subtracting fluid content. In order to optimally preserve samples for future species determination, the insects were weighed in an alcohol-wet state. First, the alcohol concentration in the vessels was stabilized to 80%, while this concentration was controlled with an areometer over a period of at least two days. In order to obtain biomass per sample with sufficient accuracy and comparability, the measuring process was fixed using a standardized protocol [34]. For this purpose the insects of a sample were poured onto a stainless steel sieve (10cm diameter) of 0.8 mm mesh width. This sieve is placed slightly obliquely (30 degrees) over a glass vessel. The skew position accelerates the first runoff of alcohol and thus the whole measuring procedure. The drop sequence is observed with a stopwatch. When the time between two drops has reached 10 seconds for the first time, the weighing process is performed with a laboratory scale. For the determination of the biomass, precision scales and analytical scales from Mettler company were used with an accuracy of at least 0.1g and controlled with calibrated test weights at the beginning of a new weighing series. In a series of 84 weightings of four different samples repeating this measurement procedure, an average deviation from the mean value of the measurement results of 0.4 percent was observed (unpublished results).

I think it's interesting to look at these kind of things related to the "expected armageddons" of nuclear war, disease, gray goo, etc.

I suspect it's far more likely that, if humanity goes extinct, it's due to some other subtle cause, rather than one of the big headliners.

Pretty terrifying thinking about all the various pesticides in use today and wondering "Will one of these bioaccumulate and sever some critical link in an ecosystem humanity depends on?"

Climate change is a big contender (see http://climate.btmx.fr).

But what's most scary is that there are multiple credible slow or fast ways the whole of humanity is at risk, and that most are our own fault.

"Not with a bang but a whimper."

It may have already happened, but it would take years and years for us to even notice.

Don't worry about the insects, see the last quote: As the scent of 82 proof alcohol that preserves the bugs wafted, just a little, through the room, a reporter asked if, at this rate, all the insects were going to disappear. “Oh, don’t worry,” said Mr. Sorg, the wasp expert. “All the vertebrates will die before that.”

However, agreeing that we are indeed hastening the next mass extinction, might be a good start to avoiding/postponing it.

The only way is population control, and how does that work outside of nightmares and cautionary tales from history?

Great Filter here we come.

its really hard to have a serious conversation about population control. It's just one of those topics that immediately label you as some kind of crazy murdering nut-job in the eyes of lots of people.

Honestly, it may not have been super effective for certain reasons, but China's child limit laws are about the least crazy solution I can think of.

Population control probably isn't necessary. No one (informed) thinks that the human population is going to grow out of control. It's likely to become stable at around 10-11 billion within 100 years. Birth rates are declining in developed countries and the undeveloped world is rapidly developing.


Honestly, evolution says that it won't. Long-term, breeders will "out-compete" those that limit their household size. Without external political forces or wholesale genetic engineering, we're in for a rough ride.

There are various examples where breeders did not outcompete, and instead a population settled on a low birth rate. Any animal that is not predator-dominated, really, but the best-known examples are New Zealands Kakapo [1] and Panda bears [2].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kakapo#Breeding [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giant_panda#Reproduction

> stable at around 10-11 billion within 100 years

but is that small enough or soon enough to avoid environmental catastrophe?

Hans Rosling has done some research and ted talks about this: https://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_on_global_population_...

It isn’t necessary only if massive inequality persists, and our tech just plain saves us all. What a crazy fucking bet when the stakes are the future of human civilization.

I think many people probably like the idea, but are worried about implementation.

Example: I think everyone should be sterilized at birth, but it should be reversible at no cost to them. But I can't think of a single government that I'd trust to enact this policy correctly without falling into a Eugenics system.

Surely that is an argument about how resources should be allocated? Should resources go to a large number of poorer people or a smaller number of more wealthy people?

Also, the catch is that development tends to reduce population growth. India (for example) may be growing rapidly now, but if they succeed in eliminating poverty then population will stabalise at some point. People will simply have fewer kids. So why not just wait until population stabalises naturally?

We don’t really have until “some point” especially when Indians and Chinese people all understandably want a slice of what the West largely has hoarded; luxury. Spread that over 7-11 billion and we’re just screwed barring miraculous new tech. Granted that people want and probably deserve roughly equal lives, the only viable solution is to spread the resources out over fewer people.

I used to notice a lot more bugs when I was a kid. Until recently I thought it was because I was closer to the ground back then :)

And I thought it was because my parents replaced their plot of tulips. But now there are more flowers than ever and very few bugs.

windshields filled with bugs

I remember my father cleaning the windshield and head lights at the gas station to remove dead insects every time he filled up the tank. That was in the sixties. I almost never do that.

Has anyone considered that "no more bugs on windscreen" is an expected effect of the vastly improved aerodynamics of cars since the 1960s? On a modern car (anything made in the past 15-20 years), the windshield is swept such that it's almost parallel to the airflow, so it would be very hard for bugs to hit it.

I'm not saying whether or not there are less insects, just that this is a huge confounding factor.

Perhaps someone who frequently takes classic cars for long trips at highway speeds can chime in?

About 5-10 years ago you could see the difference between a German highway or any other Eastern European highway. In my experience there was much less bug splatter in Germany than in Hungary. It was so well known in my family that this being a recent headliner surprised me a lot. I guess it's not that easy to count those pesky little insects :).

I actually notice a lot more bugs when I have driven a longish stretch of Autobahn in Germany. My guess is that it is due to the higher speeds. Driving elsewhere is 100-130 kmph, on the autobahn it regularly is 180-240 kmph. Catches the little buggers by surprise :D

> Perhaps someone who frequently takes classic cars for long trips at highway speeds can chime in?

We own a 1981 VW Vanagon. It's a camper, it travels. 8-9 hours to see the eclipse this summer, as just one example. These days, I clean the windshield more to get the dirt off than remove the bugs. Anecdotal, but hey, you asked. :-)

I drive a Scion xB, which has the aerodynamic efficiency of a toaster. When I bought it in 2005, the huge amount of bugs that the windshield caught was one of the few things I didn't like about the car.

I'd estimate conservatively that during the past few summers, driving in the same areas, I see at least one third fewer splats than I did a decade ago. However, the area I live in has also had a big growth in sprawl, with lots of new housing developments especially, and that is almost certainly a factor.

I drive a Scion xB, which has the aerodynamic efficiency of a toaster. When I bought it in 2005, the huge amount of bugs that the windshield caught was one of the few things I didn't like about the car.

Hello, fellow '05 owner! And yup, all I have to add is "me, too", because our experience has been identical.

As one last anecdotal data point to add to our VW and Scion, I keep a can of cleaner in the motorcycle tank bag to clean the helmet face shield. I used to buy stuff packs of three. Lately, I think I'm still on the can I bought three years ago. I used to also keep a little scrubby sponge in the tank bag for those extra stubborn bugs. I haven't used that thing in so long I don't even know where it's at anymore.


But not even bugs getting caught in the air intakes or radiator?

Ride a motorcycle without a full face helmet, or at least visorless and without a mouth mask. But do wear some goggles or glasses.

We take insects for granted as they have always been there.

Sometimes science is not always about having all the answers but about thinking in the right questions.

Even if the data is not accurate, bringing attention into this matter seems a positive outcome.

I wrote up a root comment but this is actually a better place. I agree with this sentiment! The rest of this is additional commentary on the rest of the discussion on this article.

I don't know why but I'm seeing a lot of anecdotes to support or dispute the linked article. The world is much bigger than any one person's experience, and the data indicates that overall, there are fewer insects. We may have anecdotes that agree or disagree with that statement, but that doesn't disprove the statement or in fact provide any useful content to the discussion.

The real question here is 1. is this a bad sign (magic 8ball says yes) and 2. what can we do about it (this is a deeper question that can't be easily answered because we haven't done in-depth analysis of why these insects have started to disappear, but the suspicion would be that large-scale agricultural and suburban pesticide use is having a much larger and potentially disastrous effect on the earth's ecosystem).

The discussion I'd like to see here is about the ways we can verify this study (trust but verify), determine the source of the problem, and work torwards eliminating that source.

My mother is a lover of birds and she installed several nesting booths in her garden. All but one are empty. I think it's not a problem with birds, it's just they don't have anything to eat.

Hm, so feeding them year-round (the right stuff of course) might be the ethical thing to do now.

For some birds, their eggs hatch at the wrong time. Caterpillars go out of the egg earlier now, birds haven't fully adjusted.

There's a common anecdote among Polish drivers that drive through Europe. When you wash the front of you car just before entering Germany from Poland, you will have almost no bugs on the front of the car when you exit to France.

I also noticed almost no mosquitos in my several trips in the summer to and passing through Germany.

Is there any millionaire here who can (secretly) hire a lawyer to shut the pesticide industry down?

The destruction of whole ecosystems and causing of many diseases (even cancer and death) is a capital a crime without any doubt. (Yes, lawyers still need to read the proof to put them on trial).

You do realize that "pesticide industry shutting down" will cause widespread famine, right? This attitude strikes me as incredibly privileged. Sure, the HN community (which is definitely in global top 1% by income) may be able to cope with x10 food prices. Too bad for the rest, it seems

If Monsanto kills all the insects (and some humans on its way) famine could follow too.

If a million dollars in legal fees could shut down the pesticide industry, then someone would surely do it, but pesticide companies can spend billions of dollars on lawyers, and on lobbyists and political contributions to change the laws in their favor.

And to be able to pay their lawyers and lobbyists, the pesticide industry could simply increase the prices of their products. Most farmers would have to buy them anyway to be able to grow enough stock to make a living.

Destruction of environment because of this silent killer is very noticeable in last 5 years. Drastic changes around. I wonder how next 5 years will look. Will be interesting. Don't you worry, there are plenty of spaces left for insects. And human life, it is worthless.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact