National Nest Box Week starts tomorrow. This annual event encourages us to head out and hang up a new nest box, so that our favourite garden birds have somewhere to raise a family. It’s one thing that may help slow their decline.

Nest

Whilst we have been bombarded with messages about helping the birds for a long time now, and many of us are doing what we can, the plight of insects has taken longer to reach the public consciousness. Because – let’s face it – we can do without bugs and creepy crawlies, can’t we?

Er… no, we can’t. Insects are a vital part of every ecosystem on land, doing important things like helping to recycle waste, keep pests at bay, pollinate flowers and provide food for the larger animals we’re more fond of – including birds, bats and hedgehogs.

Hog

“If we and the rest of the back-boned animals were to disappear overnight, the rest of the world would get on pretty well. But if the invertebrates were to disappear, the world’s ecosystems would collapse.”
– Sir David Attenborough

The most likely causes of the current Insect Armageddon are land use changes (destroying wild areas) and the intensification of agriculture that leads to fewer weeds, and higher pesticide usage. When I was a kid I remember long car trips ending with a bug-splattered number plate. That has been replaced by my mum complaining she gets no butterflies in the garden any more (her habit of reaching for the bug spray at the slightest provocation doesn’t help).

Nectar bar

Buglife have a good guide to gardening with bugs in mind, and it’s not rocket science. It covers everything from growing a range of plants that flower at different times, through providing a water source and ditching the pesticides, to the wider environmental context of gardens.

But we also need to stop treating an increasing number of environmental ‘crises’ as individual problems. Our negative effect on our planet, caused by gross over consumption (in the developed world) and a negligent approach to pollution, is overwhelming. We can and will cause ecological collapse if we don’t do something to avoid it – and that will take action on a much larger scale.

Wisley

Some further reading:
Insectageddon: farming is more catastrophic than climate breakdown. George Monbiot, October 2017.
Insect declines: new alarm over mayfly is ‘tip of iceberg’, warn experts.
Damian Carrington, January 2018.
Save our bugs! How to avert an insect Armageddon. Hugh Warwick, May 2018.
Climate change on track to cause major insect wipeout, scientists warn.
Damian Carrington, May 2018.
Where have all our insects gone? Robin McKie, June 2018.
Insect collapse: ‘We are destroying our life support systems’ Damian Carrington, January 2019.
Global insect decline may see ‘plague of pests’. Matt McGrath, February 2019.

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