Bug-pocalypse?

“The Windshield Phenomenon”  Have you heard of it? It was described in a New York Times article in November, 2018. Entomologists penned the name from the fact that people were noticing fewer bugs… around night lights, hitting faces while riding bikes, working in the garden, and on auto windshields.  Yes, I have noticed fewer insects and fewer birds and wonder if there’s a link between the two.

Bumblebee 2018

A German entomological study in 2017 found that insects in nature reserves had decreased by 75 percent over the 27 years that they have been collecting information. The New York Times article stated, “Scientists are still cautious about what the findings might imply about other regions of the world. But the study brought forth exactly the kind of longitudinal data they had been seeking, and it wasn’t specific to just one type of insect. The numbers were stark, indicating a vast impoverishment of an entire insect universe, even in protected areas where insects ought to be under less stress. The speed and scale of the drop were shocking even to entomologists who were already anxious about bees or fireflies or the cleanliness of car windshields.

Most people don’t pay much attention to insects except for the pretty ones like butterflies or the ones that bite like mosquitoes or ticks. Some insects can be pests, but most insects are not. Not only do they pollinate 35% of the world’s crops, they help decompose organic matter and are the main food source for many birds, reptiles, amphibians, bats, fish, and small mammals. They’re a critical member of the food chain.

Swallowtail caterpillar

I was encouraged at a recent neighborhood association meeting where the board decided not to apply lawn herbicides due to wetland restrictions. However, because of the increased tick population and as a preventative for ants and termites, they will spray pesticides along the edge of the woods and around the building foundations… probably every home foundation but mine.

I will protect the small habitat here and make it hospitable for insects, insects like the katydids that still populate this garden. I heard their raspy calls in the summer. They are nocturnal insects, but occasionally they appear during the day.
The male Fork-tailed bush katydid (Scudderia furcata):

male katydid 2018

And below, the female Fork-tailed bush katydid (Scudderia furcata) with the telltale anatomy of the female. She uses her serrated ovipositor to delicately insert her eggs between the layers of a leaf’s edge.

female katydid 2018

2018 Fork-tailed bush katydid (Scudderia furcata)

One more interesting note… there is a tiny slit visible on each of her front legs. Those are her “ears” that she uses to listen for the call of the male katydid.

These healthy insects and many others are important links in the backyard food chain. Even though adult birds may eat seeds, it’s insects like these that are fed to their young…. not seeds.  So until we know and understand more about a possible “insect apocalypse,” I guard this tiny habitat and no herbicides or pesticides will be used here.

 

22 thoughts on “Bug-pocalypse?

  1. Annie, this is such an important topic. Glad to hear your property will be the exception. We are pesticide herbicide free here on the farm, and yes we have lots of weeds we also have lots of yummy bugs for our chickens to eat. I get so upset when we go to our place in Florida, everyone sprays everything down there, it makes my head spin when I think about it. Love the katydid photos too. Kim

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    • I take the usual precautions against ticks and avoid pesticides for the health of insects. Of course, I do a thorough tick-check after being on my hands and knees gardening for a few hours.

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  2. Ummmmm…..is the tick an insect? Although they are good fodder for birds & reptiles, etc, methinks they are arachnids. They do “bug” one though!

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    • You’re right. They are arachnids and we treat the edge of the woods with pesticides that kill ticks…and, of course, insects are a sad casualty of that spraying. Deer ticks are causing much grief year-round in New England now. Have you read about how they’re affecting the moose population? Sad…

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      • We spray for no insects except around the top of our foundation once a year in the spring, which keeps our house pest free. We do put out the slug bait which we are told is only specifically toxic to them; otherwise our hostas would suffer.

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      • We had a rainy growing season last year after several years of drought. For the first time, slugs and snails found the hostas. 🐌 🐌 🐌

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  3. Sad when a town decides to spray. Ours does the towns walkways seems so many have gotten lazy about pulling, mulching and trimming. I cut back the thick brush this Nov. from my place along the river and will add a very thick 1 foot wide path of of wood chips to see if we can keep the tics from the yard. My partner now has a pacemaker due to a heart block a tick cause or so the heart doctor said.

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  4. I am so glad you create a safe place for our tiny insect friends! I wish we all could take such better care of bugs and bees and creepy crawlers. They’re important too! Those are great pictures, by the way.

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  5. It is not something that we notice here much much because we lack the abundant insects that are such a bother elsewhere. We still have mosquitoes, plus some really nasty introduced types that are active during the day. We still have aphid, and the nasty insects that bother the garden. Yet, if other insects are lacking, I would not know. Our climate is rather arid.

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  6. Thanks for the recent follow! Your photos are stunning. I don’t do much gardening these days as I have pulled all my plants to the patio in pots. I don’t think we have as many insects either. I did hear on NPR today that there were a increased numbers of monarch butterflies wintering in Mexico this year.

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