Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, January 6, 2020


Tara Cornelisse, Center for Biological Diversity, (971) 717-6425,
John Losey, Cornell University, (607) 255-7376,

Study: International Action Needed to Save Declining Insects

Scientists Across the Globe Propose Roadmap for Averting Insect Apocalypse

PORTLAND, Ore.— Seventy-three scientists from around the world published a roadmap today for saving the world’s insects from what is increasingly understood as an insect apocalypse caused by habitat loss, pesticides, climate change and other threats.

The study, published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, calls for governments around the globe to address this staggering level of decline. Recent evidence shows that more than 40% of insect species could be facing extinction.

“We’re calling for action because insects are key to our own survival, and we ignore their decline at our peril,” said Dr. Tara Cornelisse, a scientist and entomologist at the Center for Biological Diversity and coauthor of the paper. “Study after study confirms that human activities have decimated insects, from butterflies to bees to beetles. We can save these crucial species, but the world has to get moving.”

To curb insect declines, the scientists call for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to address the climate emergency and replacing intensive agriculture with agro-ecological methods that reduce pesticide and fertilizer use. Curbing local light and noise pollution and protecting and creating microhabitat features for insects are also key.

Similar measures have recently been adopted by Germany, which committed funds to an insect conservation action plan that protects habitats and reduces pesticides.

“We depend on insect predators like ladybugs to protect our crops from pests while birds, bats, and fish depend on insects as food,” said John Losey, a Cornell professor who coauthored the study and is chair of IUCN’s Ladybird Specialist Group. “We can’t survive without all these different insects, and they are all going through alarming losses in both numbers and diversity. Ignoring this issue places all our food security at risk.”

Insects pollinate up to 75% of crops and more than 80% of flowering plants. They are vital in nutrient cycling, soil aeration, decomposition and biological control. They also serve as food for much of the life on Earth.

“The United States needs to step up and help save insects by protecting habitat and reducing pesticide use,” Cornelisse said. “Instead the Trump administration has dangerously weakened regulation of pesticides like the neonicotinoid sulfoxaflor and highly toxic pyrethroids.”

A focal priority action in the roadmap is to define and conserve threatened species. In the past 15 months, the Center’s Saving the Insects campaign has petitioned to obtain endangered status for two native bees — the Mojave poppy bee and the Gulf Coast solitary bee — as well as the Bethany Beach firefly under the Endangered Species Act.

The Trump administration has only protected 21 species under the Act — the lowest of any administration at this point in the presidential term. It has delayed decisions for 274 species awaiting the Act’s protections. The Center recently launched a lawsuit to ensure these imperiled species, including more than 40 insects such as cave beetles, stoneflies, caddisflies, butterflies and moths, receive the protection they need under the law.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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