How the Action For Insects Campaign aims to help the environment
- Credit: Jonathan Fry
Insect decline is alarming scientists across the world and it has consequences for all of us. The Wildlife Trusts has started an Action For Insects Campaign, writes campaigns manager Alan Wright
Do you remember hot summer days, travelling in the family car to Blackpool, Southport or further afield? Every so often your dad would stop the car to clean the windscreen and remove the mess of blood and gore as dozens of insects had splattered onto the glass. It might not be a job you miss, but the fact that those messy windscreens are a thing of the past is not good news for anyone.
A healthy insect population meant plants were being pollinated and there was plenty of food for larger species and birds but alarmingly, over the past 100 years, insect numbers have seen a dramatic decline. It is now estimated that 41 per cent of our insect species face extinction.
Of course, we have millions of insects in the North West and some 20,000 species in the UK, but they all have a specific role to play. In every woodland, field and even in your garden and window box, bugs are working every day to improve our lives. Those that aren't are being eaten by the ones that are, so they all serve a purpose. It's not just the beautiful butterflies and bees we should appreciate; midges, woodlice and wasps all play a role. A species of midge is the only insect that can pollinate the cacao plant - so no midges means no chocolate. Now you are listening! Midges are also great food for our summer swifts and swallows. Woodlice will recycle your decomposing vegetables. Many insects love mess, or more specifically, clearing it up. One of the important and unnoticed roles that insects play is to break down and decompose organic matter. Wasps are great at hunting smaller pests and pollinating your garden plants.
In fact, around 80 per cent of UK plants are pollinated by insects, including a large number of our crops. It has been estimated that the value of insect-pollinated fruits and vegetables grown in the UK is about £220m a year.
Without insects many birds, bats, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals and fish would die out as they would have nothing to eat. Around 87 per cent of all plant species require animal pollination, most of it delivered by insects - that is pretty much all of them, except grasses and conifers. In addition, three out of four of all the crops we grow require pollination by insects.
The Wildlife Trusts has launched a campaign called Action for Insects, which is calling for a reduction in the use of pesticides where we live, work and farm. And we need to create more insect-friendly habitats in our towns, cities and the countryside.
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Chairman of Lancashire Wildlife Trust, Steve Garland said: 'As a child, I was excited and inspired by an abundance of wonderful insects and developed a lifelong love of wildlife as a result. It saddens me that young people are now missing out on this and I want to do something about it. I believe the catastrophic decline of insects can be reversed by drastically reducing the use of chemicals in the environment and creating strong Nature Recovery Networks to give them space to live and thrive in safety.'
So it's not all doom and gloom. In fact, insects still brighten our lives in many ways in the North West. Look at the bees in your garden, which will be starting to dip into your flowers right now.
Head out to Wigan Flashes and try to get a picture of orange-tip butterfly, as the flit from flower to flower. Or visit Brockholes in Preston and walk into meadows alive with the colours of dragonflies and damselflies, surely one of the UK's best places to see these insects. And on Warton Crag, Wildlife Trust staff and volunteers are creating butterfly rides for rare fritillaries to meet new mates.
To find out more about the Action for Insects campaign and sign the pledge to call for a reduction in the use of pesticides go to wildlifetrusts.org/news/insects-urgent-action-needed. And make sure you also plant insect-friendly plants in your spring garden and start to appreciate your local bugs.