Where have all the bugs gone?

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

Where have all the bugs gone? It seems that we are los­ing our bugs.

There is one bug that we mon­i­tor closely: honey bees. This is be­cause there are many bee­keep­ers who have their bees in wooden boxes. It has been in the news quite a bit lately that the honey bee pop­u­la­tion is de­clin­ing, and how im­por­tant they are to pol­li­nat­ing many of our crops. There are very few wild bee colonies left.

Some years back, bees were dec­i­mated by a mite that lived in the bees tra­cheal (breath­ing) tubes. You can­not see them with the naked eye, but they are like ticks on us. Then came the var­roa mite. These par­a­sites were big enough to see, but there were so many that they played havoc with the bees. Bee­keep­ers treated the bees by var­i­ous meth­ods to try to con­trol the mites, but they took their toll.

Bees are also sus­cep­ti­ble to var­i­ous viruses and bac­te­ria.

Now we are find­ing out that there are many pes­ti­cides that kill or dis­rupt the life of bees.

But, as you can see, we keep track of the bees be­cause they provide pol­li­na­tion, and we get things from the bees like honey, pollen and propo­lis. We do not keep tabs on many other in­sects. It just seems likely that if the bees are hav­ing trou­ble, many other in­sects are as well.

A check of the ve­hi­cles parked at the lo­cal big box store re­veals that there are very few bugs on the fronts of the cars. It may that the cars’ aero­dy­namic de­signs re­sult in fewer bugs hit­ting the ve­hi­cles. But since most cars have wa­ter-cooled en­gines, there are spa­ces for the air, and bugs, to get through to the ra­di­a­tors. A check of the ra­di­a­tors re­veals ver y few bugs.

Very few stud­ies have been done on in­sects, but re­searchers in Ger­many have done a com­pre­hen­sive study. They found that in 1989 they could catch 3½ pounds of in­sects in each trap. In 2014, they caught only 10.6 ounces. They think that the two big­gest causes of the de­cline are pes­ti­cides and mono­cul­ture, where we plant large ex­panses of one crop, and that is not con­ducive to in­sect sus­tain­abil­ity.

Now we have a new dis­ease car­ried by mos­qui­toes: the Zika virus. There is a lot of spray­ing go­ing on to try to con­trol the mos­qui­toes. The prob­lem is that when you do a fly­over with a plane, spray­ing an in­sec­ti­cide, you are killing most all of the in­sects — good and bad.

It used to be that when you turned on an out­side light, there would be many bugs in a short time. Not so many today. We used to have these blue-light bug zap­pers for mos­qui­toes, but they killed ev­ery­thing but the mos­qui­toes. When driv­ing at night, we used to see many bugs fly­ing and hit­ting the wind­shield. No more. How many re­mem­ber the Ja­panese bee­tles? I haven’t seen one in the past sev­eral years.

In­sects are all part of our ecol­ogy. Bugs are eaten by many an­i­mals like birds, bats, lizards and frogs. We have to learn to keep things in bal­ance. Even the bugs.

Bill Bartlett, Val­ley Lee

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