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Study shows massive insect loss (washingtonpost.com)
372 points by pgrote 4 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 198 comments

Years ago, my family used to drive to our grandparents' village in hot, summer Friday nights.

The windshield ended so pestered with dead bugs that the first task on Saturday morning was to drive the car to the river to clean it. I remember it vividly because it was so fun to wash the car with the cold river water.

Last August I went stargazing with my wife. We chose a secluded area because it was far away from light pollution, a few hours away from the capital.

We watched the Perseids for a couple of hours in the middle of a field. We had no lights on, but being CO2-emitting mammals, no flying insect bothered us. We had anti-mosquito spray ready but we didn't need to use it. There were a few ants but that's it.

Afterwards, I drove an hour and a half at 2am and only a few bugs died on my windshield. I didn't even need to use the wipers the next morning.

I hate mosquitoes as much as everybody else, but something has been happening to insects in the last 20 years. As a human it's comfortable but I'm honestly a bit afraid for the environment. And studies like this don't paint a positive picture.

It's such a minor thing when it comes to our day to day but becomes truly terrifying when you put it all together and look at the big picture. I've noticed the same thing about wild-life in general whenever I visit my favorite places from childhood - whether it's the reefs around Australia, the tide pools in Baja, or the inland empire desert I grew up in. Looking at actual research just makes it worse: a third of microorganisms in the upper marine layer have died off from pollution, almost all species considered keystone predators are gone or going extinct, and the climate is jumping off a cliff.

At first I thought it was an effect of aging (changes in nostalgia and awareness) but after moving back to one of the cities I lived in and talking to the local bird watching society, it seems to be happening everywhere on massive scales.

And so, slowly, we boil.

> And so, slowly, we boil.

Climate changing power, without the wisdom to wield it, is as plausible a Great Filter as anything.

Hard to develop a space program when you're spending all your production fighting over scarce resources, plugging leaks, and attempting to feed a planet with decreasing yields.


I had two daughters before I came to the conclusion that this is the most likely path for humanity at this point. There is a possibility of a global awakening that might prevent this tragic loss of megafauna. But I'm already a vegan and don't drive much; can't think of more to do, and while I'm not too bad at dealing with this, it can be quite depressing.

That's barely the tip of the iceberg of what to do.

Public transportation or bicycling, avoiding one-time non-consumable items (one-time plates, forks, cups, cup-lids, straws, etc. are an absolute no-go—which means boycutting starbucks and similar if necessary), recycling, rallying against use of polluting materials (less polypropylene and soft plastic packaging in super-markets, for example), less materialistic imports (container ships use the nastiest oils to operate, as international waters have no emission regulations), thinking of ways to make being environmentally friendly simpler, etc.

And even more importantly, getting others to do the same. The difference from one person doing all this right will just be a drop of water in the ocean. If it does not spread, it does not matter.

Also, as someone who cares about the environment, I would suggest not putting vegan up front as your efforts. Regardless of cause or effect, "vegan" carries a stigma. "Vegetarian" communicates what is needed if the idea is to reduce pollution from cattle farming, and it is less likely to cause instant dismissal.

And, also, while replacing meat with vegetable farming has fewer gas emissions than cattle farming, that still does not deal with our farming techniques being unsustainable, or that many types of farming causing massive deforestation (soy, anyone?). Nor does it reduce massive oil pollution, stop the oceans from filling with microplastics, etc.

It's but one small thing on a very long list of things we need to fix.

A note about diet:

There are some recent studies suggesting that globally, on average, the most environmentally friendly diets have some animal product component because of their ability to make use of landmass that we wouldn't be able to make use of directly. E.g., cattle can eat plants that grow in areas we can't grow human-friendly crops on.

I can't find citations to these studies offhand unfortunately. (this is an example but not what I had in mind: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5522483/) But what I remember is that globally, the most environmentally friendly diets had some small animal product component.

This also probably varies a lot by location too, so it probably is the case that for some people, the best diet might be vegan; for others it might involve more animal product.

Just pointing this out, because there are nonpolitical-psychological-sociological reasons for a "soft" approach on plant-based-diets.

I think a key component here is just minimizing the meat-component of the diet.

Meat would not at all be a problem if produced in smaller amounts. The current level is just absurd waste (I would guess mostly to support fast-food production?), and we absolutely do not need this amount of meat in our diet.

It is, however, extremely nutritious, so a small meat consumption would both be sufficient and much more sustainable. Even just 1/10th of the current scale would likely reduce any problems to be insignificant.

This is true, but from what I've read it is only true for places that are small scale and local. Anything large scale, like feeding a city, would benefit greatly from a reduction, or elimination, of animal products.

Something like 75% of all non-meat food grown in the US is fed to animals for later eating. When you complain about soy destroying forests, you are complaining about meat consumption:

> Just over 70 percent of the soybeans grown in the United States are used for animal feed, with poultry being the number one livestock sector consuming soybeans, followed by hogs, dairy, beef and aquaculture. The second largest market for U.S. soybeans is for production of foods for human consumption, like salad oil or frying oil, which uses about 15 percent of U.S. soybeans. A distant third market for soybeans is biodiesel, using only about 5 percent of the U.S. soybean crop. In 2013, soybean exports reached record highs, exporting 43 million metric tons to overseas markets. China remains the largest export market for U.S. soybeans.


You'll find this same thing over and over again when discussing clearing land for crop growth. The vast majority of it is to support meat production. Going vegan is probably the number one thing you can do to fight climate change and pollution in general, as an individual. Especially since switching would eliminate vast amounts of farming, and the associated chemicals and water loss. edit: and deforestation.

It is not a small thing, not at all, and to diminish it is to deny the massive sea of change that is required to actually fight climate change with 7B people on the planet.

Sure, there is a lot of cultural blowback against veganism, but I think it is manufactured via marketing, just like the anemic belief in climate change in the United States.

1. You mean "going vegetarian". Going vegan is something entirely different, and entirely unnecessary in this context.

2. Food is being massively overproduced, so a few thousand people boycutting meat is unlikely to even remotely affect the production amount, thus having no difference at all. A much bigger difference would be made by trying to fight food waste. Fight profit-optimization by over-production, go for local sellers rather than supermarkets with absurd over-stocking, etc.

3. You don't need to boycut meat to solve that problem. Just reduce it. From what I've read, the US consumes absurd amounts of meat, which fuels a giant meat production industry. If you cut the average meat consumption in half in the US, the meat industry would no longer be the primary consumer.

Meat itself is not to blame for the absurd over-production and over-consumption we see today. It is instead a result of the usual corporate greed, profit optimization, and our total ignorance for the side-effects of our convenience. Vegetarianism is entirely symptomatic treatment, rather than dealing with the root-cause.

(For the record, I respect the choice to not eat meat for other reasons, but I am only considering the environmental impact here.)

`. I don't mean "going vegetarian". I mean "going vegan". Milk, eggs, and fish have some of the same problems environmentally and ethically. When I say ethically, I don't just mean our responsibility not to bring harm to other species on the planet, although I feel that is important, but also our responsibility to future generations.

2. Yes, food is overproduced. Yes, too much food gets thrown away. However, this is massively dwarfed by the wasted food that we feed in animal lots, by a huge degree. Yes, me and my family going vegan doesn't have a huge impact, but it certainly massively reduces our carbon output, at a time when it just seems to be going up on a person to person basis. Last I checked, the amount that I was personally outputting was around 50% the US average. The only major difference was that I was vegan.

3. To maintain 7B people, most people will have to not eat meat, or eat it so sparingly as to be effectively vegan/vegetarian.

Let's present evidence:


> A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use.

> It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car.

I don't care if you eat meat, but do it with honest realizations as to the cost. In a couple generations the costs will be clear, and our actions today regarding animal food production will be viewed for the atrocity that it is.

It's unfortunate that more people don't internalize this fact. One of the first things you learn in middle/high school ecology is that 90% of available energy is lost between each step in the food chain. Producers can only convert about 10% of the sun's energy to useful electrons in photosynthesis, herbivores only get 10% of the energy it takes to grow their food, and carnivores only get 10% of the energy herbivores take in. Some factors like the decreased non-predatory death improve those numbers for industrial agriculture but not by much.

In US agriculture, we have some estimates for the ratio of output calories to the input calories [1] that are astounding. For every 100 kcal of feed stock, we get ~19 kcal back from chicken, ~7 kcal from beef, and a whopping 1 kcal from shrimp.

Essentially, every 1000 kcal of beef takes 14,000 kcal of corn/soy/alfa-alfa and 1000 kcal of shrimp takes 100,000 kcal of whatever it is shrimp eat.

[1] From the book Diet, Energy, and Global Warming by Eshel and Martin

> avoiding one-time non-consumable items (one-time plates, forks, cups, cup-lids, straws, etc. are an absolute no-go—which means boycutting starbucks and similar if necessary)

Starbucks gets a lot of flack, from a lot of directions, but it's worth noting that companies go that could contribute a lot to this problem, they do a lot to promote better usage patterns. For example, you can bring your own cup to get filled at Starbucks, instead of using one of their cups (which uses recycled content).[1]

> And even more importantly, getting others to do the same.

And that's the reason I'm commenting. Really, I could care less whether people go to Starbucks. I'm there once a month or two (but I do gets treats for the kids there about once a week). But if we are supposed to be willing to change our behavior to make a difference, we should definitely be willing to look into whether a company is trying to do something good for the environment before denigrating them as a problem with regard to the environment.

If a company is taking steps in the right direction, we should call that out as a positive example, to encourage them to do more and others to follow in their example. Ignoring their positive actions, or worse, using them as a negative example, will not encourage positive behavior on their part.

1: https://www.starbucks.com/responsibility/environment/cups-an...

> Starbucks gets a lot of flack, from a lot of directions, but it's worth noting that companies go that could contribute a lot to this problem, they do a lot to promote better usage patterns.

In that case, I do apologize. I have never in my life gone to a Starbucks, but my point was avoiding one-time use devices of any kind, regardless of what convenience it may bring, with the exception of when it is truly necessary (such as medical packaging).

However, do note that this also includes whatever one-time devices the company themselves use to run their service.

It would be a quite standard PR stunt to present visible environmentally friendly options (that potentially largely go unused), while not doing anything at all to the less visible parts of the company.

> It would be a quite standard PR stunt to present visible environmentally friendly options (that potentially largely go unused), while not doing anything at all to the less visible parts of the company.

Sure, but it's good to start somewhere. If we get companies competing on a level of environmental friendliness, then it quickly goes beyond being superficial, as those gains are quickly achieved and further ones are sought.

To some degree I think that's part of what's going on with Starbucks. They've positioned themselves as an environmentally aware company, and one that cares about world issues (carrying specific types of beans, etc). Part of this is obviously playing to their audience (and part is it starting in a locale and with a CEO that cater to these attitudes), but that's about all we can expect from most companies. Thankfully, it's something that can be worked with. If consumers express interest, companies will respond.

There's no reason for you to apologize, I just wanted to point out that we should be careful to not draw that line at those companies who are "good" or "great". We're at the level were we should be very welcoming of those that are only acceptable in their behavior with regard to this, but that's still worlds ahead of most, and that's how we move the average.

Spreading behaviour is so important. Which means it's important to make it "cool" to be environmentally conscious. I think people sometimes underestimate the cool factor when it comes to spreading ideas.

You can do all the cool but it is going to have no result when industry is responsible for a third of GHG, agriculture about a fourth and transportation a fifth.

To stop those takes regulations and laws. Major investments too which won't happen if not forced either.

Best targeted results for efficacy of behaviour modification at a fifth. Good luck. This with self-efficacy training. You cannot do that with everyone so you're bound to fail. Worse if people cannot adapt at all. Tell a guy they now go 50 miles to work by bike is not going to work at all.

You cannot destroy a mountain by removing a few shovels of ground. The action and change has to be both forced and massive.

> I'm already a vegan and don't drive much

Since 71% of pollution is coming from 100 companies[1] I don't think that you can stop global warming by being vegan or driving less. Blaming us single individuals is easy, but we a are not directly responsible for this. The most we can do is stop buying stuff from these polluting companies.


So I went back to the original PDF, https://b8f65cb373b1b7b15feb-c70d8ead6ced550b4d987d7c03fcdd1..., to look at the list.

I see lots of companies that sell oil there. Or coal. Or things. But none that really emit pollution as a side effect.

Someone like 3M could pollute less by changing the way it produces each packet of yellow stickers. The pollution is a side effect, it's something the company can change by internal decisions.

Someone like Shell cannot pollute less by selling 1l of petroleum (I assume that pollution during production is a rounding error in this context). The pollution is inherent in the product sold. The act of polluting is identical with the act of selling.

Which implies that your last sentence should be "the most we can do is stop buying polluting products".

> The act of polluting is identical with the act of selling.

The act of polluting is identical with the act of consuming.

For the final customer, yes.

> Blaming us single individuals is easy, but we a are not directly responsible for this

Companies are comprised of people. Governments are comprised of people. We absolutely are responsible and we have the power to do something about it. Stop being so passive and dismissive, if you care.

>> Blaming us single individuals is easy, but we a are not directly responsible for this

> Companies are comprised of people. Governments are comprised of people. We absolutely are responsible and we have the power to do something about it. Stop being so passive and dismissive, if you care.

So what do you suggest? Blow those 100 companies up with TNT?

People with power have more, much more say than a typical person. Unfortunately, many of them are sociopaths or just do not care if there is no direct gain for them.

Are you advocating for general strikes here?

> Are you advocating for general strikes here?

I'm saying a passive approach may give you a moral high but it doesn't actually do anything. Saying "Only someone else can fix this problem." is part of the problem, not the solution.

The individual approach is part of the divide and conquer method used as a defensive of the capitalistic system.

CO2 isn't pollution. CO2 is causing massive greening of the earth.

As someone who's been through several cycles of climate related depression this year, I just want to reach out to fellow HNers and say it's not the end of the world.

Our society, and our civilisation is going to change, in massive ways in the coming century, one way or another. And all of us are going to live in less luxury than we do now - simply because such luxury is unsustainable. But it doesn't mean or children are all going to starve or drown.

We don't know what the future holds. Go back to the boundless optimism of the fifties, where everyone thought we'd live on the moon by now, drive spaceships to work and have robot butlers. I feel like today some of us are at the other end of the spectrum, in boundless pesimism.

Do all you can to pollute less, and encourage those around you to do the same. Drive less. Don't fly. Buy second hand. Replace your oil boiler. Grow veg. Write to your representatives But don't give up on your children's future. Just because the world of their twenties won't resemble yours, doesn't mean they won't find happiness. In 30 years the world could be ugly by todays standards but you and i and our kids will probably all still be in it.

And for your own mental health, don't let HN comments drag you down. I've seen people on here literally advocating suicide over this issue. We as tech heads are typically of a personality which is susceptible to these negative feedback loops, and reading posts on here can break a person. I'm breaking my own rule today even being here but I'm feeling good for once and wanted to spread it.

Be well, have fun with your daughters, watch them grow up.

How do you know at least some of our children are not going to starve, or worse, be forced into warfare over crucial resources?

I'd like that crystal ball you have. Blind optimism is still blind. Facts are not on our side.

50s optimism and status quo dropped us into most of the current problems. (combined with population boom which has now ended)

The trends as they are now are not reassuring and there seems to be no political will to touch anything meaningful.

It is all fixable but the upheaval is likely going to be massive. We have no idea which form.

> How do you know at least some of our children are not going to starve, or worse, be forced into warfare over crucial resources?

Of course I can't know that, I have no crystal ball. I'm saying that assuming that we're all doomed is as bad as assuming everything is fine and denying the problem.

> 50s optimism and status quo dropped us into most of the current problems.

I wasn't advocating 50s optimism but rather saying it's an extreme and we've swung to the other extreme, at least on HN. I'm not optimistic about the future but I'm not fatally pessimistic about it either, at least not anymore. Reading comments here is a good way to trigger that fatal pessimism, make you want to quit your job, buy a gun and go live up a mountain.

> It is all fixable but the upheaval is likely going to be massive. We have no idea which form.

Exactly my point. There will be upheaval. We have no idea. And it won't be a magical fun time. But it might not be a hellish nightmare apocalypse either. Just bear that in mind, comment readers. Don't fall into despair about the future.

Don't be optimistic that we'll overcome resource depletion without suffering, be optimistic that our efforts can reduce that suffering. There isn't time to dodge the blow, but we can lessen the severity, and everyone who is capable and willing to support that goal is needed. Seek solutions, teach, enable others to do the same.

I read the book 'World War Z', and at the risk of ruining the book for someone, there was a statement near the end that really stuck with me. Some guy was reflecting on how they'd won, and he said 'Tell that to the whales', paraphrasing.

I cannot deal with the guilt of the loss of megafauna. I just can't. If justice only includes humanity, then it isn't justice. I feel as if I've reached this place using sound ethical logic, and I'm culpable for what we are doing to this planet. We are bacteria in a petri dish.

> I'm culpable for what we are doing to this planet

You didn't ask to be born, and you're doing your best to avoid harming the planet. You can't hold yourself responsible for the extinction of another species. Humans are of course responsible. Without us, earth would be a verdant paradise full of wild animals eating each other. But to blame yourself for centuries of humans consuming, burning, polluting, building, paving and getting rich off the misery of others is morally flawed. You're no more responsible for that than the child of a murderer is for his father's crime. And by being vegan, driving less, espousing green values to those around you (as I'm sure you do) you're having a net positive effect, even while you consume the resources you need to survive. Earth might be better off without humans around, but humans are better off with you around.

Somewhere between some layers of bedrock, is a old dinosaur and a young dinosaur:

"Dont you worry, young one, its not so bad. Look up there- a shooting star, now make a wish, while it lasts-"

"I want life to never change-"

Should mummy dinosaur have immediately drowned him in tar just in case?

I think we can do it... you can email me at my username at gmail if you want to chat but we can talk it out a bit here too.

Is there any aspect to culture that you’re personally drawn to? Food? Walkable communities? Forests? Wildlife? Durable goods?

I really respect that you grasp the magnitude of the problem and you empathize with those who will live with the consequences. That says a lot of you. But you can't stay in a framework where you are feeling depressed about it. That's probably not a good framework to work from.

Yep. This is something people get wrong about the old Limits to Growth study: they assume it's just about running out of resources. Actually a key feature of the model is that you spend more and more resources on dealing with the effects of environmental damage.

The interesting result was that, given that dynamic, your economy keeps growing and everything looks great, then suddenly it all crashes down.

>>Hard to develop a space program when you're spending all your production fighting over scarce resources, plugging leaks, and attempting to feed a planet with decreasing yields.

All the more reason to develop your space program.

At the risk of pointing to Movies, but yet, one of the underlying themes in the movie Interstellar is some day there will be no option but to leave.

So its about time we think seriously about mining asteroids, space colonies and having some kind of permanent self sustaining and growing colonies in space.

Sure Humans are still likely to have the same problems, but you have eliminated the biggest threat to our existence, and we now have thousands of years at our disposal to plan the next steps.

It would take a whole lot for Earth to become less habital and more expensive than anywhere in space we can reach. Interstellar also included Matthew McConuhagh communicating quantum gravity info to his daughter in the past from inside a black hole. That’s not a realistic scenario.

Agreed. I loved "Interstellar", but leaving Earth is a hopeless prospect.

How do you move 8 billion people to another planet when it costs a $billion to send just 5 people into Earth orbit? Worse, there's nowhere enough sunlight and water anywhere in this solar system to sustain more than a handful of people.

No, if mankind can't make it here, we can't make it anywhere.

The same way we explored the earth. Every one won't move at once.

These are gradual things that unfold over decades to centuries.

We can definitely colonize space. And we can make space travel vastly cheaper.

But I'm extremely doubtful we would ever reach a point where moving everyone off of earth is easier than fixing whatever is broken with earth. Or that it would even get within a factor of 10.

Moving everyone off-planet, no. Getting a presence up there, and creating off-planet production sites on the other hand, would be quite handy on the other hand. That way we could reduce the impact industrial production has on the planet.

See, exploring Earth takes almost no energy, mostly time and will and supplies. Ships at super efficient.

On the other hand, getting to 1st cosmic speed takes a lot of energy released in a relatively short burst or some kind of space elevator which we cannot build yet.

You cannot make this "gradual" really. You either get to orbit or don't. The "gradual" phase of getting into space is done. We got to orbit.

We need a major economy and scale breakthrough now or you cannot even try sending people off anywhere. So major that small improvements as done by SpaceX will not get there in centuries.

Totally agree. I have a couple visions of attainable infrastructure evolutions, we should have every city and county helping sponsor X Prizes that would help us attain incredible improvements: • elevate all city infrastructure up off the ground, 100 feet or more. If you figure that out you get arable, natural landscapes back and you keep your city too. • How to bring light down to the ground underneath it all? I say we build transparent canals, use their shape to lense light through and around. • these canals, there could be extra channels/tubes added to store and process dirty, utility and drinkable water • create food programs that bring growing, harvesting, finishing and cooking down into the crowds of us who’d want to participate. Can we reduce the cost of food by orders of magnitude?

Right, if it's possible to sustain a colony on mars, shouldn't it be even easier to sustain a colony on earth?

> slowly

My grandfather, who raised me, was born in 1919 and died in 2003. He didn't say much about anything, but he watched, listened and observed, always.

He lived most of his adult life in suburban Southern California, but thanks to a 30 union job, and an early retirement, we spent each summer, all of it, camping in the eastern high sierras. Growing up with them, I first went in 1970, and (with them) last went in 1990.

He noted on more than one occasion how much less wildlife there was in the deep woods we used to hike together. He said it was 'quiet', and I sensed anxiety from the old man as he said it.

This moved the young me, profoundly, because my grandfather was the most stolid person I've ever known. No surprise: he spent his teenage years in the dust bowl, following a 5 mile trap line in the often brutal Nebraska winters, with a rifle, by the age of 14, in order to help keep the family from starvation. As a young man, he survived some of the most brutal battle in the Pacific.

A man who, faced with armed and dangerous gangs in the neighborhood he bought into decades earlier, showed no fear.

A man connected to the land in ways most of us can't even imagine today, he was worried about how the land was changing.

Thus, I effectively automatically, by default, became a young person who cared very deeply about the environment.

> we boil

I consider all of this, and my 16 year old son, and no clarity is apparent to me.

> and only a few bugs died on my windshield.

Smoother airflow around the windshield means fewer bugs smashing into it and more glancing hits that don't leave a mess.

Traditional hard edged cars like Jeep Wrangler seem to get a lot of bugs on the windshield (based on brief Googling), so while there may be fewer insects I'd wager to guess aerodynamics is large factor.

Can confirm aerodynamics are part of it. I drive a 2013 Jeep Wrangler. Wife has a brand new, aerodynamic vehicle. Jeep definitely collects bugs, bird poop, and even rocks at a MUCH higher rate.

> Smoother airflow around the windshield means fewer bugs smashing into it and more glancing hits that don't leave a mess.

Not necessarily, I've noticed the same thing as the OP driving the same car, a small hatchback I bought 4 and a half years ago. One or two years after I had bought it I could still see lots of dead bugs on my windshield whenever I was driving to my parents, who live in the countryside, but during the last year or so the windshield has started to be more and more clean after each such trip. The same thing has been independently confirmed/noticed by my dad, as he likes to wash my car whenever I get to them, he told me that there used to be more dead bugs on the car.

What's scary for me is the speed with which things have changed for the worse as I remember a comment I made on this website about 2 years ago saying that I could still see lots of dead insects on my car after a highway trip, in response to a couple of HN-ers who lived in Western Europe saying they didn't (I live in Eastern Europe).

If you think aero styling is the reason your windshield is cleaner, then take a look at the largely vertical surfaces of your headlights and grille. No dead bugs there either.

If I look at pictures of my Westie camper van back in the mid-90's, the amount of bug splatter across the front from a few hours' drive is huge. It practically looks like a different shade of tan at a distance.

Same route, same drive 20 years on, and the grille is virtually clean.

Anecdata, I know, but it absolutely is something I've noticed, and the aero didn't change.

I have similar memories from my childhood in the 80's. We lived in Savannah and would make the trek to North Georgia several times a year to visit my mom's family. I can remember the headlights illuminating a sea of bugs like a light snow and the bigger ones popping loudly on the windshield from time to time. Having a full reservoir of wiper fluid was crucial and my dad would let me scrub the windshield whenever we stopped for gas.

I drive down to the Georgia coast or down to the gulf through Lower Alabama a least a couple times every year and it's rare to have anything of real size burst on the windshield.

Same thing in Sweden, summer nights, 80s. Today, I never have that problem, not even during this humid, record hot summer.

I've been in this same thread a few months back. Insect loss is definitely happening, but bear in mind your lack of splatter probably also has a lot to do with better aerodynamics of cars these days. Bugs blow over the windshield on modern cars, they don't tend to splat as often. I live in an area with swarms of insects and i never have to clean anything off these days.

EDIT: Out walking my kids while i write this and i just swallowed a bug :(

I've read lots of anecdotes like this over recent years, with an increasing knot in my stomach. I don't drive much these days, renting as per requirement, so my own experience in the matter is limited. That said, I had to drive to the south coast one Sunday this past summer and know for a fact that for one day a year at least, England needn't panic too much about catastrophic impending insect implosion. I know this because I discovered half-way through the journey that there was no liquid in the window washers, so by the time we reached our destination, the windscreen was caked in obliterated insect matter and we had to spend a good 15 minutes with a bottle of inappropriately-carbonated water trying to clean it off for the return journey!

My hope is that a reduction here is indeed more to do with improved vehicle aerodynamics.

Certainly, my sense of dread through springtime, seeing very few insects dissipated quite quickly after a few evenings being irritated by a multitude of flying critters.

A welcome irritation though, one which I hope to always be able to appreciate...

I went camping in west Texas last summer and any lights we had on attracted enormous swarms of flying critters. I do not say that to discount you or OP but rather to console with the fact that there are still times and places where this occurs.

Bug swarms have always been seasonal. Maine famously has a painful period in spring when the black flies hatch.


I find I tend to see a lot of bugs during hatches. You only see one kind, it lasts a few days, and then it's back to normal. Maybe that's what you saw.

I wonder if part of the effect can be explained by the improved aerodynamics of cars. I used to drive a 1966 FJ40 Landcruiser about 10 years ago and remember having to clean bugs off the car. I don't have as much to compare it to as you since I've only been driving since 1996, but I didn't notice any major difference in that time period.

Just another data point to add: exactly the same thing has happened here in Australia. The family used to regularly drive 2000km on holidays. Dead bugs covered the windshield and radiator at the end of each leg.

Today with cheap plane fares we don't drive so much, but I still do a one 1000km drive every 5 years or so. I don't recall washing a single bug off whereas when I was a kid scraping dried bug guts was a major chore.

76% sounds almost too low, but I suspect the the biggest bugs are the hardest hit and they caused the mess on the car. I don't remember when I last saw a locust. They used to be a major problem. We used to have surfaces carpeted in beetles during their breeding season, and yet this Christmas I was actually surprised when I saw a Christmas beetle.

If we are talking of Anecdotes. Mosquitoes in India have only increased.

In fact one of the things I enjoyed during my stay in the US was absence of mosquitoes.

Just that one single data point felt like ridiculous upgrade in the quality of life department.

That the environment could slowly transition its chemistry into a state which is not suitable for life is one of my biggest fears. It would be a silent killer.

Life is pretty resilient. I'm sure some bacteria would manage to survive pretty much anything. Life survived a number of extinction events where >90% of all species were lost, so the chances are good that life will go on.

Life will definitely go on, but this would seem to be our sole chance at getting off the planet. Any future reboot wouldn't have the cheap energy resources we've exploited to this point.

I should have said "human life". A world that is no longer suitable for mammals but is suitable for microbes falls under the category of "things that scare me".

The dinosaurs evolved in a climate with 6 times the CO2 we have, after long term volcanic activity. It will take a lot more than climate change to knock out all life. Maybe a gamma ray burster a few light years a way could do it, or a massive collision that melts the crust. Not much else, though. Life as a whole is extremely reilient.

Unfortunate fact is that humans are not as resilient. Even with all our technology we'd have problems.

Not sure why that would be. Our ancestors survived an ice age while outcompeting Neanderthals with primitive stone aged technology, and spread from Africa all the way to Easter Island, the depths of the Amazon and Tasmania.

I am not convinced that life on the planet will survive. We could very well turn into Venus. Maybe we did already. In previous cataclysmic events, life was spread en masse to low earth orbit, to return after the fires died down and the earth cooled off. We have no such seed bank in orbit now.

We do not know for a fact that life does not exist on Venus, though.

"Life" means humans in this context. If the environment changes so much that it leaves microbes around but not mammals, that's what is scary. We're mammals. We're not as resilient as microbes are.

I live in a ruralish area in Brazil... And while talking to someone on webcam I noticed a couple hugs wandering around the person room and the person in question not caring at all...

Then we I was wondering about it, I realized that been some years that my house despite being near some woods and rivers, is not plagued anymore by insects. I think last time we bothered with anti mosquito candles was 3 years ago...

I recently went camping in mountains that I hadn't camped in for 15-20 years or so, and I remember constantly dealing with yellowjackets and bees all sorts of other fauna. I think I saw one yellowjacket the entire trip, and we had food out like crazy.

Plus, whereas I was used to waking up to the sounds of birds and animals, our campsite was completely silent. There was one hawk in the distance all morning.

It was strange.

>> I hate mosquitoes as much as everybody else, but something has been happening to insects in the last 20 years.

Whatever it is, it's not happening to mosquitoes. This entire summer I had at least 5 of them buzzing around my head every night- and I did swat at least half of them each evening.

Annual mosquito infestations have been irregular of late. This year was the worst in maybe the past five, probably due to the insane amount of rain we've had in the Philly area.

But in the past several years I remember being surprised that mosquitoes really didn't pose much of a problem. I could work in the yard well past sunset without becoming vampire food. That wasn't true a decade ago, IIRC.

So your GP's anecdata is cool but your parent's anecdata is not. :)

Parent's comment is "Actually X can't be happening because Y happened to me". GP's comment is "Z is happening, which might explain why I've noticed W". Parent's comment is textbook cherry-picking, GP's is closer to a regular anecdote.

I certainly agree that my anecdote doesn't prove anything, but I'm not sure it's imperative to immediately attack it as faulty reasoning. For one thing, I meant it in a more whimsical manner than perhaps comes across in my comment. As in a "bloody mosquitoes" kind of way.

In any case, some background might be useful: this happened in Corfu, an island in the Ionian Sea (to the west of Greece). Corfu, like the rest of Greece, used to have a big problem with mosquitoes spreading malaria, so in the 1950s the whole island was sprayed repeatedly from the air with DDT, to eliminate them. I believe the same was done in other parts of Greece.

Possibly as a result of that, the incidence of malaria in Greece is either 0 or negligible, nowadays. Which, despite the ecological catastrophy wrought by spraying bloody DDT on the entire countryside, is a big success- Greeks are among the Mediterrannean populations with a high prevalence of Thalassemia, a genetic modification that helps resist malaria (and which can lead to a sickle-cell anemia, a serious blood disorder):


Which means that there was a really significant problem there in the past.

So, when I say that there are many mosquitoes, I mean that I'm surprised there's still so many of the little blighters in Corfu, even given the protracted past campaign to eliminate them- and also given whatever else is happening in the rest of the world that's affecting insects, even though there's no reason that thing is also affecting Corfu, in particular.

But, OK, that doesn't come across in my original comment :)

GP's comment says "has been happening" and parent's says "is not happening." I don't see any "might." Both are anecdotal; GP's is likely more upvoted due to being more poetic as well as supported by the accompanying article.

At what point does the cost of continuing the status quo outweigh changing it? How do you even measure something like that, when the people in charge of making changes won't live to see them?

I think a major problem humanity has, among many others, is the way we assign leadership roles. Leadership of major institutions should be balanced not just among gender, but also among age. Every government should include decision makers under 40.

When we don't have rules for this, we wind up with the current situation: the average Representative is 57, the average Senator is 61. [1]

This might seem trite or pointless to many, but I really think we need decision-makers who will have to live with the longer-term consequences of their decisions.

Mitch McConnell, the current majority leader in the Senate and one of the most powerful people in Congress, is 76. When the UN says we have 12 years to change our ways or suffer possibly world-ending consequences, how much does that matter to a 76-year old?

I think it's pretty well established at this point that we can't rely on our leaders to think or act empathetically, or make decisions that matter beyond their party and the next re-election. We need to figure out a way to build future-focused thinking into our governance.

Unfortunately, I have no idea how to do it.

[1]" https://www.quorum.us/data-driven-insights/the-115th-congres...

Take a look at the Irish Citizen Assembly which predates on your idea. The last decision was making abortion legal once and for all.


You cant' expect some age limits will anyhow fix this. Plenty of amoral hawkish young people out there.

In same vein, older people tend to have more clear view on whats really important in life, it ain't got anything to do with fast cars, flashy fashion or being popular on instagram. If they have kids and grandkids, they will be at least as concerned as younger should be.

I don't see how making us have more diverse set of leaders will make things better. There are plenty of people under 40 I don't want making decisions and there are plenty of people over 40 I do want making decisions.

Diversity isn't going to make good leaders, it's going to give us diverse leaders.

In general if you are suppressing a class of people’s participation, the top people in that class will be more apt than your average participant. So including them will increase the average aptitude.

The only time that isn’t true is when you are suppressing a class of people who are fundamentally shittier than the dominant class.

The affirmative action debate comes down to whether you think skewed performance numbers are evidence that a) some of the classes are superior to the others or b) the numbers don’t accurately measure performance.

There’s nothing inherent in the data to point one way or the other. It’s just a litmus test on whether you’re a supremacist.

My wife and I leave large portions of our lawn untended. We seed ours with flowering native plants and herbs. We had fireflies and butterflies and bees galore this year— noticeably more than any of our neighbors. It’s not much, but it’s something.

After the three year California drought and not watering the lawn much during it, I just let the grass and wild flowers grow up without mowing the last few years. Lots of different kind of plants, many bees, etc. Pretty cool, although some people comment on how we have let the yard go. I wish I could do a controlled burn at the start of the rainy season.

On the other hand, I recently learned what a carpenter bee is and what they can do to exposed wood structures. This year was the first time I had them boring into the wooden eves of our house. I have mixed feelings when I see them now.

What exactly do you mean by controlled burn? If it is what I think it is, you will kill many insects that call that lawn their home. Not really good for anything (plus the risk of burning down the neighborhood)

Of course burning my front lawn would never be allowed and I understand the reasons for that but ever since humans arrived (15,000 years or so ago) California grasslands would burn quite often. The "native" ecosystem was adapted to it and I think it would be fun to see what a few years of buring would do to the biological diversity of my little bit of grassland.

California has been burning for far longer than people have been here. Human presence did, of course, alter things, but natural ignitions due to lightning strikes shaped the ecology for millennia before we showed up.


This looks like an interesting paper. I'll read in over in detail, but from the abstract this paper is discussing the suppression of fire after Euro-American settlement in the 1800's. Fires caused by Native Americans is discussed as the cause, along with lightning, and I don't think lightning is a big factor in (Northern) California wildfires. While lighting is a major cause of fire throughout the Rocky Mountains, they are less of a factor in California, especially along the coast and central valley. I have lived in Oakland for over two decades and the number of thunderstorms I've seen/heard here is less than a half-dozen.

We don't get the same kind of bad lightning storms that occur in the Rockies where the monsoons bring up thunderstorms from the south during otherwise dry summers. Maybe in the San Bernardino mountains near LA get a few of these summer lightening storms.

It would be interesting to read about pre-human fire occurrence rates in the grasslands of California but, as this study states, preserved evidence of grass fires more than 15,000 years ago are rare.

This is what needs to happen a lot more - just let nature do its thing. I'm seeing too much cultivation on the one hand - maximize yield and convenience for farmers, and of course mass deforestation - but on the other, overcompensation or wild ideas to overcompensate - from planting forests (which is fine as long as they're left alone for the hundred years afterwards) to wild ideas of covering glaciers and the north pole in reflecting plastics, or what China's doing, creating artificial rain at a huge scale.

Intervention just doesn't work; just leave your land barren and unattended, that'll give the best results. Maybe not the most desireable for you personally but that's just not important.

Is there a price for ignoring change? Yes there is.

For example, when you lose honeybees, you lose everything they pollenate... apples, cranberries, melons, broccoli, blueberries, cherries, almonds, mangos, plums, peaches, strawberries, pears, onions, apricots, kidney beans, lemons, and much more.


It may seem natural to let nature take its course. But that didn't work too well for the dinosaurs. And since we seem to be the cause for this change, ignoring it is likely to just make it worse, not better.

Same. We have what in some parts of the world would be called a "country garden". A mix of flowering natives and imports. We have bugs (especially bees) galore. Have now taken to leaving out suitable fruit scraps in the garden and water as well, and have been attracting small and large (raven) birds too.

My dad claims that the bugs come and go in cycles and says he has seen so several times over his life. He believes that we are just in a period of low bug population and that at any time there could and will be a population explosion. Personally I am not so optimistic. My dad moved around multiple times over his life and I would suspect different areas would naturally have varying bug densities and that is why he felt they went in cycles. Because for myself I DO notice the decline in bugs and articles like these do scare me for the sake of humanity.

I'm starting to feel like this is the common trend when you bring up arguments of potentially how disastrous our effects on the environment have been.

Bugs? They come and go in cycles. Climate? Again, cycles. I suppose next we'll see claims that the rising ocean is just the cycle of the ocean and it'll fall back down any day now.

But the oceans have been rising for over 1000 years at the same rate, and things like insect population and climate are cyclical.

It’s the perfect response because it’s technically correct.

We’re not going anywhere the Earth hasn’t already been. It’s just a question of whether we’ll like the Cretaceous.

> the rising ocean

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tide /s

I’ve lived long enough in just one area alone that I should have witnessed at least one of those cycles. I have not. What I’ve seen is a steady decline over the last thirty years (over which time I’ve lived several places).

You're not wrong; insect populations can grow enormously in a very short amount of time (just like e.g. mice). But they need to have had the chance.

I wonder what would happen if a country banned the use of pesticides for one year. Probably a huge imbalance at first, but over time things would stabilize - that is, huge bug explosion, but in the span of a few years, bird population would be restored which keeps the bug population in check. Well, in my climate anyway, not much to be done about huge locust swarms by some birds.

A really hard winter followed by a dry summer and there will be almost no insects. Now a wet summer followed by a warm winter followed by a wet summer and maybe some other factors, like plenty of food for the insects, their population will explode in no time.

For what it's worth, i noticed the same bug-on-windshield difference between the 80s and now in France. So, whatever it is, it crossed the Atlantic ocean.

If you substitute "the bugs" with "climate change", this gets a lot hotter.

Does anyone else find spicing up ordinary words with new cognates amusing? Super-researchers are ultraconcerned about hyperalarming insect megaloss.

Prefixes, not cognates.



One of the examples that coldnose offers has a suffix appended to it, so I think you're incorrect, too.

Maybe affixes?

By the way, yours is an example of Muphry's law. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muphry%27s_law

And because I'm correcting your incorrect correction, I have a feeling that I've gotten something wrong, too.

Which one is a suffix? super- hyper- ultra- mega- are all prefixes

the usual term is superlatives for intensifiers like that.

It is literally what I love about the English language. You can easily generate new words that are easily understood.

In the same thought, it's completely unnecessary.

Hmm what do you mean by English language? I cannot think of a language that wouldn't let this (maybe a very analytic language, like Mandarin?). This is probably a universal property of human languages.

I have to say, Mandarin is the absolute best at this. One of my favorites is the fact that the word for precedent is simply the character for "first" followed by the character for "example." So simple and straightforward. Even as a non-native speaker, once you get the hang of it you can just glue words together and often hit on the right compound word for some vocabulary you haven't ever studied. And also make mistakes... of course.

I don't speak German but I've always had the impression they love mashing words together to make super long but informative words.

Yes, that's a thing they do in German. Instead of post office it would be postoffice. Instead of train station it would be trainstation. (Only in German, obviously.)

Not exactly what's being described above though.

People always go ”oh those crazy German words” when in reality all Nordic countries do this, and I’d bet at least Dutch too.

At least in Norwegian the general rule is: if it is one thing, it is one word. Is sad to see how the English rules influence how many write now. Auto-correct end "spelling-checkers" are often terrible at this, and many think if MS Word or Google say it should be written a way it is the correct way

We do this a lot! Woordsamenvoegsmania! (The mania of connecting words)

I'm pretty sure this is more related to a rather radical shift to a more industrialised agriculture the recent 40 years.

Grazing land and more importantly meadows are simply gone. According to Wikipedia, England and Wales have lost about 97% of their hay meadows. Meadows are artificial, but they increase the biodiversity significantly.

Neonicotinoids are probably also to blame.

Climate change must be negligible in comparison, but it seems that everything can be blamed on climate change. War in Syria for instance.

The article specifically addresses and refutes this:

>Huge numbers of bugs have been lost in a pristine national forest in Puerto Rico... [it] remains the only tropical rain forest in the National Forest system

>Lister pointed out that, since 1969, pesticide use has fallen more than 80 percent in Puerto Rico

The article also provides several - reputable, scientific - references that demonstrate a predicted loss of insects in tropical regions from thermal pressure.

>>Lister pointed out that, since 1969, pesticide use has fallen more than 80 percent in Puerto Rico

The article does make this claim, but it doesn't appear to back it up in any way. Additionally, nothing is said about the type of pesticide. If I use a pesticide that is 10x stronger by weight than what was available in 1969 and possibly doesn't need to be applied as often, then we're not comparing apples to apples.

Additionally, it's not mentioned what is meant by 'pesticide' Is that just insecticide or herbicide? Perhaps the application of herbicide (roundup) has increased, killing off native food-stuffs and poisoning the insects that eat them.

You should read the linked studies before posting, they answer all these questions.

You should read it. They don't actually answer any of the questions I raised.

And the insect and bird die off extends comparably to Europe and South America, which likely use a different mix of fertilizers and pesticides than in the US.

I'd be more inclined to blame neonicotinoid pesticides than change in temperature, but seems plausible I guess.

Large agriculture has been an ecological disaster for decades. Pesticides, fertilizer runoff, heavy usage of herbicides, water mismanagement and foolish introductions of non-native species to counteract invasive pests making situations worse.

Pollution, pollution, pollution. Is climate change making some kind of impact? Possibly. But it pales in comparison with reckless use of poisons and chemicals.

TFA is about a roughly 80% drop in biomass in a pristine, protected tropical rainforest, in a country where pesticide use has dropped 80 percent.

How about delayed effects? I can't read the article, but does the article mention what the natural decay rate of these pesticides is?

It doesn't make note of any specific pesticides or actual amounts of pesticides applied, source material only references 'hectacres subject to pesticide application' with no direct reference to the data source (only a link to a USGOV site where the data allegedly was derived).

The report also makes the claim: "Most pesticides have half-lives measured in days, not decades (60)"

Reference 60 links to [1].

Nowhere on that page does it make any claims about 'most' pesticides, nor does the study attempt to link any type of pesticide to that the ones reported there.

Clearly, the impact of pesticides was dismissed without any real effort to verify the impact of pesticides.

[1]: http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/half-life.html

Why would you be more inclined to blame neonicotinoid pesticides?

Presumably because their entire purpose is to kill insects?

Because changing temperatures would move insect habitation ranges around, meaning you'd see insect species outside of their previous range (and indeed we do see that). Industrial scale use of insecticides, on the other hand, is more consistent with large scale die-offs.

Industrial-scale use of insecticides isn't new. Why neonicotinoids?

I'm not the OP, but it seems like they're more effective and started being used at around the same timeframe that insect populations started collapsing. These are the insecticides implicated in colony collapse disorder, after all. Just this year Europe banned use entirely of the main neonicotinoid insecticides. It seems like they're more effective, spread farther, or last longer in the environment, or something. Wikipedia has more information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neonicotinoid

Anyway, it definitely seems plausible that this is what's killing all the insects, given that the timelines match up.

Not the poster, and I have no idea what was in their mind, but if you don't mind speculation, the timing is interesting. These particular pesticides arrived on the market in roughly the late 1980s / early 1990s according to Wikipedia, which according to my fuzzy recollection corresponds to when we started hearing reports of bee populations crashing.

Right, but the bee population thing turned out to have been widely misunderstood.

Oh? Do tell.

It probably won't save the world, but we developers sure could do more to save energy and not requiring ridiculous hardware resources for what seems like merely gradual improvements over the 90s, with all the chemicals for processing and in batteries, and with all the waste. By this time, we could've achieved long-lived solar-powered mobiles with B/W LCDs. I remember text processing software being pitched as paper-saving devices.

You mean like Proof of Work mining?

Considering how much energy cryptocurrency mining sucks up I would say we would be in a much better place environment-wise if it was curtailed immensely. Unfortunately I can't see that happening any time soon.

I a more generalist sense just things like using Electron vs native toolkits matter. The desktop Discord app is going to use substantially more power to run day to day than if it were a native code app that just used something like C++, and across millions of gamers for hours a night every night those resource requirements and power demands add up.

It isn't always just "average hardware is faster so use more inefficient frameworks to lower time to market". Using those shortcuts to ship makes sense, but it should then be a long term goal to reel in those expensive abstractions once you can start counting the amount of power your software is using on a regular basis by whole power plants required to keep your code running on a daily basis.

Presenting "not using Electron" as a significant way to reduce our impact on the environment has to be the most HN thing I ever read.

Javascript is ruining the environment. Everyone should switch to Rust, and compile all apps to web assembly. Also, blockchain.

No, blockchains are bad for the environment.

I wonder how many user-hours of Electron vs native replacing your development machine every five years instead of every two would buy.

Currently, single decimal place digit kWh/person. Now the improvement in power supply tech and using laptop components saves you about as much. (say 0.1 kWh/person to 0.04 kWh/person)

On personal level, using a vacuum flask to boil your coffee should save more.

Cars are much more expensive thanks to materials. There, longer cycle is a major saving.

Yes. Has been in the news since a few years.

More than 75 percent decline over 27 years in total flying insect biomass in protected areas



Glyphosate perturbs the gut microbiota of honey bees http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2018/09/18/1803880115

Cars, Pesticides, and habitat loss.

There is nowadays also a general phobia and fear towards nature in general. Millions of people (driven by decades of publicity) had assumed that a backyard with tall grasses is a sort of unforgivable sin. They run compulsively towards their fancy lawnmower (and their magic products against each single plague known in the continent) each weekend.

But if you loose the grip and let a small space of lawn alone (Maybe cutting it three times a year instead 30 times a year). The thing will bloom and attract thousands of species of invertebrates including many butterflies and rare beetles. Is a very satisfying change. Small backyard ponds give also a big life boost.

> The authors of a 2017 study of vanished flying insects in Germany suggested other possible culprits, including pesticides and habitat loss. Arthropods around the globe also have to contend with pathogens and invasive species. “It’s bewildering, and I’m scared to death that it’s actually death by a thousand cuts,” Wagner said. “One of the scariest parts about it is that we don’t have an obvious smoking gun here.”

I feel this is a good place to share a quote from a favorite author (Charles Eisenstein). His philosophy might be too New-Agey for some (the skeptics society at Google even protested his visit), but I think there's more than a little something to it:

"Clear-cutting aside, the decline of one after another species of trees all over the world is something of a mystery to scientists: in each case, there seems to be a different proximate culprit— a beetle, a fungus, etc. But why have they become susceptible? Acid rain leaching free aluminum from soil silicates? Ground-level ozone damaging leaves? Drought stress caused by deforestation elsewhere? Heat stress due to climate change? Understory damage due to deer overpopulation due to predator extermination? Exogenous insect species? Insect population surges due to the decline of certain bird species?

Or is it all of the above? Perhaps underneath all of these vectors of forest decline and climate instability is a more general principle that is inescapable. Everything I have mentioned stems from a kind of derangement in our own society. All come from the perception of separation from nature and from each other, upon which all our systems of money, technology, industry, and so forth are built. Each of these projects itself onto our own psyches as well. The ideology of control says that if we can only identify the “cause,” we can control climate change. Fine, but what if the cause is everything? Economy, politics, emissions, agriculture, medicine … all the way to religion, psychology, our basic stories through which we apprehend the world? We face then the futility of control and the necessity for transformation.


Thus I say that our revolution must go all the way to the bottom, all the way down to our basic understanding of self and world. We will not survive as a species through more of the same: better breeds of corn, better pesticides, the extension of control to the genetic and molecular level. We need to enter a fundamentally different story. That is why an activist will inevitably find herself working on the level of story. She will find that in addition to addressing immediate needs, even the most practical, hands-on actions are telling a story. They come from and contribute to a new Story of the World. "

I think views such as this take a premise of peace in nature -- that without external influence, Earth would be relatively static. But we know this is false. For instance (as per the topic of this article) these [1] are the temperature readings we have from various sources, just over the past 400k years (things get really wacky going back a bit further). Literally before humanity existed we see extreme global climatic swings happening on very short time scales, with upwards of 9 degree (celsius) temperature changes. We are likely exasperating both the acceleration and magnitude of the most recent swing, but even if humanity did not exist or even if we managed to achieve 0 carbon output, we'd see a warming event happening some time right about now.

And it's easy to forget that throughout the history of our planet that have been numerous mass extinction events where nearly everything on this planet went extinct, all without any help from any species whatsoever, let alone humans. For instance during during the Permian-Triassic extinction period, about 250 million years ago, some 96% of species ended up going extinct. All of the incredible diversity we know as life today emerged from those 4% that survived.

The point of this is that Earth and nature are not inherently peaceful or stable. We live on a brutal planet that has a habit of killing just about everything that manages to evolve on it with a pretty good degree of regularity. The one and only reason we might not end up going extinct, in the longrun, is because of our intelligence. Be one with nature and it will, sooner or later, kill you. Overcome it, and you might just survive.

[1] - https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f8/Ice_Age_...

I really like all the innovations with indoor farming. But I have always thought that it’s missing a huge chunk of the bigger picture. The rest of the eco system and habitat. Traditional farming(as we know it) is not that close to nature. It’s is essentially an open air factory for food...largely aided by chemicals and a lot of brute horse power. In all this, nature and it’s balancing effects are lost.

Growing up in the 1960s, I remember car windshields being just covered with dead bugs in summer, especially after highway trips. Thinking back, I haven't seen this happen since 1990, at latest.

Putting my zoologist hat on, arthropods make up the largest fraction of biomass of any other large animal group (phylum). The next largest, fish, heavily depend on arthropoda for food. As do small birds, and as it happens the worldwide loss of birds is also being called 'catastrophic', at about 40%. That makes me wonder, how much fish have we've also lost? And what's next?


When the world's population of insects drops 50% to 80% in only 40 years, this is a VERY BIG problem.

First the climate came for the coral reefs, and I did not speak up because I am not a marine invertebrate.

Then, the climate came for the rest of the arthropods, and I did not speak up because I only have two legs.

Then, the climate came for the fishes of the sea, and I did not speak up because I do not have gills.

Then, the climate came for the plants, and I did not speak up because I am not a tree.

Then, the climate came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.

These are serious warnings the planet is giving us and those in charge are more concerned about their nest egg than their grandchildren's future. Something's gotta give, and so far it's Earth's ecosystems.

In this case it's probably more about the intensification of agricultural practices than directly about climate, but yes -- the warnings are dire.

> Then, the climate came for me, and there was no one left for me to eat


Same result, we starve.

Actually, the earth will kill us, the rich will survive in their underground bunkers, in a few hundred years, it'll clean itself off and we will rise again.

Reminds me of Chrono Trigger...


As a species humans are pretty much worse than Hitler to everything other than their pets and other human beings. It's not the climate coming after anything, it's people they are after everything... Total control and consumption of everything in sight.

Our economic system takes for granted everything that is free and is provided gratis by the environment. If we accounted for the cost to every little thing that is provided for free and paid dues to the entire environment, animals and so on, economic activity would be at a standstill and maybe we, and the environment we live in, would last a few more million years.

This summer was very atypical; in previous years my house was getting all kinds of insects visiting it during the day, this year very few. Also, there were too many bees I found lying dead on the floor - I had to pick one almost every day - something is definitely up.

Interesting. The insects must be migrating to Australia. I have lived in the same location now for 20 years. In that time, I have seen cycles in the populations of both insects and birds. This years has been one of the peaks for birds.

So many different species, and some of them are much larger than I have seen in a number of years - some of them are up to twice the normal size. Flies again have increased, but mosquitoes are down. Bees have been out and about as the amount of flowers being pollinated and fruit starting to appear is large this year. It seems to be an increase over last year. Plenty of spiders and earwigs, though down on snails (as yet).

The chooks are chasing lots of insects about for a feed. There are plenty of aphids on the roses - too many in fact - may not get any roses this year.

Mind you this is Spring and we may see a different change later as we get to summer. We are expecting a bad fire season, though doesn't appear to be like it was when we had the Black Saturday bushfires a decade ago.

I have only just stopped running the fire at night because it has still been too cold to not do so.

Similar to what others have said here, I've noticed a marked decline in dead bugs on my vehicle following cross-country road trips over the last 10-15 years.

I never have to clean my windshield of dead bugs anymore. The first time I visited the midwest after moving to CA, something like 10 years ago now, via i80, the front of my car was completely covered with insects to the point you could barely see the paint.

Every successive year I made that same trip the dead bugs lessened until there was simply no need at all to even clean my car upon arrival.

Things are changing, there's no doubt about it.

I just hope the species evolving to thrive in the emerging conditions are as easy to cohabitate with as the ones going extinct. Other than a small subset like mosquitoes, wasps, ticks, and some spiders, insects have been rather hospitable to us. Maybe not so much in the future.

Living in Vietnam, there is a massive population of swallows. They are prized for the nests they make [1] and people build whole multi-story windowless buildings just to house them [2]. I've seen these buildings all over. At dusk you see them flying around clearly eating up all the mosquitos and bugs in the air. No absolute proof, but I'm pretty sure this is why there are so few mosquitos and flying bugs here.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edible_bird%27s_nest

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edible_bird%27s_nest#/media/Fi...

I'm fishing quite a lot, few years ago if I reeled cloth, old sock, or plastic bag from river bottom it was full of tiny shrimps and other tiny insects. When I reel it now it's just empty. Also I see significantly less chubs.

This year about half the apples in our garden were devoured by insect and microbial predators. You could say this is the natural condition for producing organic food. The pristine ones marketed for sale are there courtesy of the 2.8 million tons of pesticide (2009. Is it more or less now?) used to fend off such attacks. Have we properly assessed the true cost of our food?


> The invertebrates that live there, likewise, are adapted to these temperatures and fare poorly outside them; bugs cannot regulate their internal heat.

This makes me think that the insects which do survive will be better adapted to the higher temperatures. Hopefully the change is slow enough they have time to adapt. And this is nothing to say about the impact of that adaptation time on other species...

Problem is the temperature keeps changing (upwards). If it was a step input, then you might see a sudden die-off and then a ramp back up. But the temperature change is, to first order, a ramp input.

Problem? Slow ramps are the ideal way to drive adaptation. That's why finishing a course of antibiotics is so important.

This isn't slow, by evolutionary standards. The bugs are trying to adapt to a changing, rapidly increasing temperature.

I'm willing to bet that the necessary genes already exist in the population, since the bugs already handle daily temperature swings that are much larger than the increases from climate change.

Given that, a few dozen generations is plenty. And insect generations are for the most part quite short.

Then why are the insects all dying? If this is true, the populations should be rebounding. They aren't.

Because it's still a bad effect that takes time to adjust to. And there might be other factors.

It has, apparently, been going on for a couple of decades now. As you correctly point out, this constitutes many insect generations. If this were simple case of letting pre-existing genetic variations that are robust to temperature get selected for, we would be seeing populations rebound.

And it seems most of the other factors, besides climate, have been accounted for. The losses here are in large nature preserves, where insecticides and herbicides are not used. And in the case of Puerto Rico, at least, pesticide use island-wide has dropped dramatically since the 1960s. So one would not expect the results of pesticide use on insect populations to only be manifesting themselves now. Other than climate, most other factors seem to have changed in the insects' favor. Yes, neonicotinoids are an issue, but a relatively local one. One would not expect them to be an issue deep inside a Puerto Rican rainforest nature preserve.

Arthropods can trive in the worst deserts of the planet. They just will hide by day, will migrate or look for shadowy areas. On the other hand is practically impossible to obtain funds for saving the rarest species. There is an everlasting pressure to trim and chew the borders of the protected areas.

Can confirm, its happening in Canada too. When I was a child, the car windshield used to get covered with bugs, but its not happening anymore. Drastic change. Even driving up north, where you would expect very little human induced influence. Where have all the bugs gone? even windows has fewer

re: "Lister and Garcia attribute this crash to climate. In the same 40-year period as the arthropod crash, the average high temperature in the rain forest increased by 4 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperatures in the tropics stick to a narrow band. The invertebrates that live there, likewise, are adapted to these temperatures and fare poorly outside them; bugs cannot regulate their internal heat."

No doubt, this is alarming. None the less, couldn't this suggest that the species in question simply moved to more suitable climate? That is, there is a difference between being killed off, and leaving an area that no meets their needs.

The study cited in the paper was carried out on Puerto Rico. There isn't exactly another more suitable climate to migrate to.

Couldn't they just move down range from El Yunque to, say, the Morovis area?

A catastrophic decline has also been reported in Germany: https://phys.org/news/2017-10-three-quarters-total-insect-po...

Have any of these studies found places where insect populations have not declined at all?

Midges in Northern Europe still seem to be thriving.

L.A. has gotten new-improved mosquitoes recently:


Is there a chance that there is an issue with the methodology and that numbers are wrong? I would have thought this type of loss would cause very obvious and catastrophic changes higher up the food chain.

I would think so too. But most species are capable of switching among multiple food sources, to compensate for lean times. I think this allows those critters that are already living to stay alive. But it probably limits their ability to reproduce, since their young are unlikely to be as flexible in finding food. I suspect the impact of a long-term change in foodstuffs will take a while to fully propagate.

And yes, the article makes the point that insectivores are disappearing as well with presumably a knock on though less direct effect on higher level predators.

We are killing everything the way we’re living. Either we change or we too die.

We talked this summer in a wonderfull warm night about it. Usually there are some kind of bugs around at nighttime. But there was not even one around. Our idea was, because of all light is LED now, or something like this.

Insects can see ultraviolet light but not red.

I'm no expert on the matter, but that seems like a pretty sweeping generalization.

This site confirms it: https://indianapublicmedia.org/amomentofscience/insect-color...

I knew because ultraviolet light is used by entomologists to attract insects to traps during the night, e.g. moths: https://mississippientomologicalmuseum.org.msstate.edu/colle...

This site gives the visual spectrum response of a species of beetle: http://cronodon.com/BioTech/Insect_Vision.html

From a cursory review of results for "insect visual spectrum" it seems to check out - quite useful to know.

that's because all the mosquitos are now in china...


What a horrible way to end a post. Try - always be mindful and intentional with your actions and the actions of those around you. Work hard towards building a better world.



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