And for keen gardeners, the sight of lovingly tended vegetable plants stripped bare by colonies of caterpillars is too much to bear. A bottle of bug spray is a common weapon in many garden sheds.
But it’s been gradually becoming clear that insect numbers in the UK and worldwide have sharply fallen and that we have far fewer insects left. Twenty-three species of bees and flower-visiting wasps have gone extinct in the UK since 1850 and numbers of butterflies fell by 46% between 1976 and 2017. And moths too are in decline with larger moths like the garden tiger moth dwindling sharply across the UK.
But does it matter? Perhaps this means we’re free of the bites, stings and nuisance these tiny creatures give us.
A new report published by The Wildlife Trusts this week shows that there are serious consequences for wildlife and people if we continue to have what the report calls an ‘invertebrate apocalypse’.
Insects are essential. They are the world’s pollinators, pest controllers, food for other creatures such as birds, as well as nutrient recyclers. For instance, the dung beetle is a bit of an unsung hero of the animal world as it’s been clearing up poo for the last 65 million years, and without it the countryside would be littered with dung. Even annoying midges play their part in the web of life as food for bats and swallows. Some types of tropical midges are the cocoa tree’s main pollinators. It’s humbling to realise that without midges there would be no chocolate!
Behind these alarming declines of insects are the habitat loss so many species face. In addition, the widespread use of pesticides in farming as well as in our gardens and allotments is a major reason for insects dying out. The number of pesticide applications has approximately doubled in the last 25 years.
The Wildlife Trusts are calling for tougher regulation on the use of pesticides as well as on local authorities and businesses to create insect-friendly wildflower areas in parks, road verges and other spaces. And there are things we can all to do help. We can stop using chemical pesticides in our gardens, mow the lawn less to leave some areas wild, build bug hotels, grow nectar-rich wildflowers and maybe dig ponds to attract dragonflies,
So, it’s time to consign the fly swat and bug spray to history and give insects the respect they deserve.