What would hap­pen if all Earth’s in­sects van­ished?

BBC Earth (Asia) - - Science -


Most non-ma­rine food chains de­pend on in­sects. Al­most all birds eat in­sects, and even those that eat seeds as adults still feed in­sects to their young. It takes 200,000 in­sects to raise a swal­low chick to adult­hood. In­sects also break down plant mat­ter and

help re­cy­cle nu­tri­ents into the soil. With­out any in­sects at all, most bird and am­phib­ian species would

be ex­tinct in two months.


Of the world’s food crops, 75 per cent are pol­li­nated by in­sects. With­out in­sects, we could still grow many foods, but onions, cabbage, broc­coli, chillies, most va­ri­eties of tomato, cof­fee, co­coa and most fruits would be off the menu. So would sun­flower and rape­seed oil. De­mand for syn­thetic fi­bres would also surge be­cause bees are needed to pol­li­nate both

cot­ton and flax for linen.


On the plus side, if there were no longer any in­sects, we wouldn’t need the 430,000 tonnes of

in­sec­ti­cides that are sprayed onto crops ev­ery year. In the US, pes­ti­cide residues cause be­tween

4,000 and 20,000 cases of cancer each year, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Acad­emy of Sci­ences. But this is a small com­pen­sa­tion for total

eco­log­i­cal col­lapse and global famine.

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