The Guardian reports that a recent study shows the abundance of flying insects has plunged by three-quarters over the past 25 years.
Insects are an integral part of life on Earth as both pollinators and prey for other wildlife and it was known that some species such as butterflies were declining. But the newly revealed scale of the losses to all insects has prompted warnings that the world is “on course for ecological Armageddon”, with profound impacts on human society.
The new data was gathered in nature reserves across Germany but has implications for all landscapes dominated by agriculture, the researchers said.
The cause of the huge decline is as yet unclear, although the destruction of wild areas and widespread use of pesticides are the most likely factors and climate change may play a role. The scientists were able to rule out weather and changes to landscape in the reserves as causes, but data on pesticide levels has not been collected.
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New research carried out by Dr. Alexandre Aebi from the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland published in the journal Science shows that three quarters of the honey samples found in a world-wide study showed traces of at least one neonicotinoid.
198 honey samples were taken from every continent except Antarctica. One third of the samples contained levels of pesticide that were harmful to bees. However the amounts were well below maximum permitted levels in food for humans. More worryingly a “cocktail effect” of more than one insecticide was found in 45% of the honey samples.
The authors of the study, who believe in operating the precautionary principle, say that a permanent EU-wide ban, as proposed in France, is the best solution. A spokesman for the manufacturers maintained that the results were inconclusive due to the small sample size.