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EDITORIAL: We must consider our insect allies

There is a belief that if we ever need to gain a grasp of the overall health of the world around us we need only look to other lesser forms of life that share our environment.

It stands to reason that the more creatures able to thrive together, the stronger, more diverse and healthier it ultimately is for the primary animal at the top of the food chain – us.

That’s why we should be more than a little concerned about latest observations that have scientists fearing some Australian insect populations might be edging close to the brink of collapse.

There has been plenty of media surrounding circumstances involving the European honey bee, but the issue of declining insect populations appears to be on a much broader scale.

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Researchers are saying insect populations are generally in decline around the world and scientists are keen to get a clearer picture of what is happening in Australia.

Experts gathered at an Australian Entomological Society conference in Brisbane to discuss insect decline and were looking for ways to get more people involved in monitoring the situation.

‘So what!’ we can almost hear people say, ‘surely we could do with a few less annoying mozzies, flies and other pest insects?’

Not so! Like it or not, we share the food web with our insect friends and as part of the web, they are ultimately integral to our health and survival.

In a world where large-scale international and national turmoil, mayhem and drama capture much of our attention, it might be that an equally important story is happening in our back yards and under our noses.

As CSIRO Australian National Insect Collection director David Yeates said: “Insects are essential. They provide billions of dollars’ worth of ecological services to us each year, such as plant pollination, waste disposal and pest control. The worry is, if insect populations are in decline, so are the populations of larger animals such as birds and lizards who rely on them as food.”

Of course we also have to ask the question: what’s that ultimately mean for people?

Circumstances might be that insect decline is the result of simple evolutionary anomaly, climate change – whatever.

But we also have a habit of taking an arrogant approach to natural elements in our environment that we find uncomfortable and-or unacceptable. 

Insect and other micro elements of life often fall into this category.

I wouldn’t have been the first to see someone all but empty a can of household insecticide on a solitary spider, sterilise a garden with mass fumigation or leave a bug zapper permanently on under a pergola.

On occasion, as we know in agriculture, tackling serious disease and preserving costly and important infrastructure, fights against insect invaders are a necessary evil.

But everyday standard practice? Probably not. It is worth remembering there is a difference between being overtly ‘green’ and being sensible and having targeted and informed approaches to preserving or removing insect populations from an environment is critical.

When we’re next peering into our vege or tomato patch and waiting patiently for flowers to turn into produce, it might be worth considering what helps make it all happen.

The entire December 11, 2019 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!