April 2021 - 34

Butterflies and a host of other insects serve in the important role of pollinating plants. (Photo by Patrick Owen/WGFD)

Anecdotal evidence, along with a growing number of
scientific studies, suggest the days of encountering
massive groups of insects on a regular basis may
be behind us. An analysis of worldwide reports
points to a catastrophic decline in the number of
species as well as populations of individual insects
on a global scale.
The question many people ask on hearing this news
is, " Why should we care? " The best answer probably comes from a quote by renowned naturalist and
biologist E.O. Wilson who said, " ...if insects were to
vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos. "
Humans are not the only animals that depend
on the existence of insects for their future. Although
insects are not managed by the Wyoming Game and
Fish Department, the presence of these creatures has
a reaching impact on wildlife and fish in the state. As
one of the bottom links on the food chain, insects
are critical components for the health of those species
above them. The American Museum of Natural History reports about 40 percent of all species on earth
fall under the class Insecta. Less than 1 million of the
somewhere between 2 and 30 million species of insects
have been formally identified. As far as individuals go,
the Smithsonian reports there is an estimated 10 quintillion, that is a 10 followed by 18 zeros, in the world.
In other words, there are about 1.4 billion insects for
every human on earth. Yet, an analysis of 73 historical

34 | April 2021	

The Sheridan's green hairstreak is Wyoming's state butterfly. It is usually
one of the first butterflies to emerge in the spring and can be spotted
from March to early June. (Photo by Kathy Lichtendahl)

reports about insect decline published by the journal
Biological Conservation in 2019 concluded about 40
percent of insect species are in danger of extinction
in the near future.
The Biological Conservation analysis cites multiple
reasons for the diminishing number of insects in the
world. Insects have lost suitable habitat due to an
increase in human population and more intensive
agricultural practices. Another factor is the widespread
use of pesticides and insecticides without a clear understanding of the consequences. With only about 3
percent of insect species deemed pests according to
the National Pesticide Information Center, the use
of these agents can kill many insects that serve a beneficial purpose.
Other contributors to declining populations include
the move to monocropping, or growing a single crop
on the same land year after year, which promotes less
diversity in the variety of insects that can exist in an
area; changing climate, which is altering the timing
of things like plants blooming; an increase in invasive
species of plants and insects which negatively affect
native populations; and something as simple as light
pollution, which can confuse bugs and make them
more susceptible to predators.
The beneficial roles of insects for humans and wildlife are many, yet it seems they are often overlooked
or taken for granted.



April 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of April 2021

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https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/october-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/september-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/august-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/july-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/june-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/may-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/april-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/march-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/february-2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/January2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/December2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/wyominggame/WyomingWildlife/September2020
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com