BLOG POST

Insectageddon

Following on from reading young George’s post on organic growing, I found myself embarking on a riff about insects, which if you want you can read, below. Organic growing of course is ‘sustainable’ in that it doesn’t damage or take out more from the natural world than it puts in. So the use of toxic indiscriminate insecticides are banned, for example.

For many years I was an organic veg grower and over that time I developed quite a ‘professional’ interest in insects. I put them in three camps – ones to encourage (ladybirds, bees, lacewings, hover flies), ones to tolerate (all butterflies other than cabbage white, moths, grasshoppers, most beetles, wasps etc) and ones to exterminate as soon as I saw them (aphids, slugs, snails, cabbage white caterpillars, sawfly on gooseberries, fleabeetle on brassicas etc).

That was all very well when I am just head down in my own little veg patch and don’t look up to what’s happening in the wider world. But recently I’ve become aware of the terrifying prospect of the mass extinction of the vast majority of insect life that looks like it is actually happening right here and now, out there in natural world. You may have noticed yourselves that there are far fewer insects around nowadays – rarely see a bee, the clouds of insects that used to be over a flowering meadow reduced to a handful, no insects splatted on your car windscreen at night, – I remember hearing flies ‘murmering’ in trees when I was younger, in their untold thousands.  With no insects to eat, we will watch over the disappearance of robins, blue tits, blackbirds, thrushes, swallows, most of the song birds you hear now in the woods, small mammals such as field mice, dormice, voles, and then following up the food chain to the raptors like kestrel, barn owls, sparrowhawk, all the way up to golden eagle.

And of course so many of the insects, not just bees but very importantly them, act as pollinators for the fruit and vegetables that we grow and eat. Scientists don’t seem very certain what is fuelling this mass extinction, but they suspect pollutants such as insecticides and artificial fertilisers. So, with no food, it won’t only be ‘them’ – insects, birds, animals – that are affected... it will also be ‘us’. I now look at a cloud of midges dancing over water and instead of reaching for the insect repellent I feel glad that the swallows have something to eat after their long journey from Africa. Quite a change!

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