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Infographic: Little Big Things: The Insect Armageddon

Like when you're missing the smallest piece of Lego.

Insects numbers are plummeting, everywhere around the world. Why is this? Is this important? Aren’t we happy to reduce the number of mosquitoes? Well, yes. But not exactly. How do we know? The insect population is extremely tricky to measure, so the best technique is to extract a given quantity of habitat (soil, bark…) and weight the proportion of insects contained in there. Over time, this provides a reasonable estimate of our world’s microcosmos. Where these measures have been carried out, studies report a collapse of around 75% in insect populations.

What is an insect?

What is an insect? This broad category of animals describes six-footed invertebrates with an exoskeleton, a segmented body and at least a pair of antenna. The definition varies according to its more-or-less scientific use. So do the number of legs, to our horror. Insects have been around for about 396 million years (homo sapiens: ~40,000 years).Why are they important? Well, they represent more than half of all described living things. Including plants, bacteria and microorganisms. Collectively, insects realise more than US$57 billion’s worth of ecosystem services in the US alone! 98% of the world’s pollinators are insects. Insects also had the great idea to enjoy decomposing live matter (poop, dead leaves…) and contribute to preventing more greenhouse gasses from entering the atmosphere. Another one? The transformation of live matter is the process that makes the ground fertile. Without the fertilisation work of these minuscule helpers, the earth in which we plant our crops declines to the point when necessary nutrients are depleted.

What to do for our insects?

What to do? Accept the natural in your garden. Maybe even you can find an interest in those incredible living things. Bees, ants, cockroaches, termites, all have social organisations that rival human organisations. In the heart of the Amazon forest, a gigantic termite colony was discovered. Scientists numbered more than 200 million mounds over the size of Great Britain. Insect colonies are thought to act like a superorganism rather than a multitude of individuals. This allows them to solve problems as a collectivity when the commune is threatened. Humans should probably get a little bit of inspiration from our tiny rivals for world domination!

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