Will insects go extinct?

No, probably not, no matter what you might have read or seen on Twitter.  The underlying paper is “Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers.”  Here is a tweet thread by Alex Wild on the paper, here is one bit:

They make a great deal of local extinctions as a sort of proxy for global extinctions. That’s pretty dicey. I mean, bison are locally extinct here in my Austin neighborhood. But their numbers are recovering elsewhere.

They used 73 studies done on different taxa in different places. Those studies must represent tens of thousands of person-hours. Gargantuan. But the input studies weren’t designed for global assessment.

The paper itself has strong evidence on the severe pressure on butterflies and bees, and furthermore the general encroachment of humans on the natural environment probably is going to diminish species numbers and biodiversity, for insects too.  At the same time, the remaining species will adapt and evolve to meet the new potential habitats, with many kinds of insects having an easier time adapting than say gorillas.

The paper has some quite non-dramatic sentences such as: “Studies on ant populations and trends are lacking except for a few invasive species.”  And: “A single long-term study on grasshoppers and crickets is available…”

So I don’t quite see how the authors arrive at: “The conclusion is clear: unless we change our ways of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades.”  Bryan Caplan, bet away!

Comments

I should hope they will go neither instinct nor extinct!

Either insects went instinct long ago, or maybe insects' instinct today is for the extinct (they needn't stick around to do us any favors).

How resourceful we are to have armies of electronic drones hovering on standby to help with whatever pollination possibilities persist.

"Of the 550 gigatons of biomass carbon on Earth, animals make up about 2 gigatons, with insects comprising half of that and fish taking up another 0.7 gigatons. Everything else, including mammals, birds, nematodes and mollusks are roughly 0.3 gigatons, with humans weighing in at 0.06 gigatons."

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/humans-make-110000th-earths-biomass-180969141/

"Humans, along with all of our livestock, outweigh all other wild mammals by 20-fold, Pennisi writes. And in the last 10,000 years, human activity slashed plant biomass by half and reduced wild mammals by 85 percent."

I would have expected the fish to make up a bigger percentage. Maybe we killed all of them off, too, though.

Ah yes, the pigeons, you ask? I think of the pigeon feathers in terms of dialectics. The key difference is between a zero and an oval. A pond and a lake. And, the pigeons, I believed were naked. I went down our short driveway to check for mail as I had grown accustomed that summer of 1989.

Well done, Sarge.

I'm doing my part for insectinction.

I recently became aware of a minor infestation in the basement of spider crickets or cricket spiders: ugly little buggers. Likely, they swarmed across the Rio Grande from Mexico.

My neighbors employ exterminators. I'm a DIY kind of guy, and a cheapo.

I put out rodent glue pads.

It's fun to check the pads once each day.

When one gets stuck, others come along and get stuck trying to eat their trapped cousin.

Swift modestly proposed a similar solution concerning Irish babies.

Swift proposed rodent glue pads for Irish babies?

If it comes to it, human beings are toast. A "Save the Insects" = "Save the Pests" campaign won't get anywhere. But, as the great Andrew Whitworth reminded us, "At the end of the day we're all going to die." Like George Carlin, I just wish I could choose who's in or out.

Insects will feed on my body after I expire. They will get the last laugh in the end.

Scientists have already brought back the dinosaur (see "Jurassic Park"), so bringing back a stupid ant can't be that hard.

Contact urticaria is an immediate but transient localised swelling and redness that occurs on the skin after direct contact with an offending substance

"At the same time, the remaining species will adapt and evolve to meet the new potential habitats, with many kinds of insects having an easier time adapting than say gorillas."

So can you offer any proof of your statement? And can you prove that the surviving species will perform the same useful functions as the extinct species did? Can you site a better study than the one you are criticizing?

The bottom line for me is that human activity has had and will continue to have mammoth impacts on the rest of plant and animal life on earth. No one knows what the consequences will be. And this study is just another warning.

On another related note: President Trump is concerned with illegal immigrants coming to America. I am, too. I want President Trump to extradite, immediately, all the damn fire ants. Build that wall!

"So can you offer any proof of your statement? And can you prove that the surviving species will perform the same useful functions as the extinct species did?"

That's basic niche adaptation from evolutionary science.

Who knew niche adaptation was a cure all!

And what is the elapsed time for the cure all to take effect? To put it another way: If we fish out tuna from the oceans, how long will it take for me to get the new form of tuna sushi?

"If we fish out tuna from the oceans,"

You are moving the goal posts. The topic is clearly about insects.

"The bottom line for me is that human activity has had and will continue to have mammoth impacts on the rest of plant and animal life on earth. No one knows what the consequences will be."

If everyone is so uncertain about the outcome, how can you be so certain they will be negative?

The entire history of natural science is continual extinction and evolution. Why is the particular mix of species circa 1900 (or 800bce or whatever your benchmark is) privileged above all others in history as deserving eternal existence? And why are you so convinced those species are inherently of greater value (e.g., have more "useful functions") than the replacement species? Maybe some new bug creates an enzyme that cures cancer, and it will forever be remembered as one of the greatest human travesties that environmentalists set back creating the new bug's niche by decades.

'the general encroachment of humans on the natural environment probably is going to diminish species numbers and biodiversity, for insects too. At the same time, the remaining species will adapt and evolve to meet the new potential habitats, with many kinds of insects having an easier time adapting than say gorillas.'

True, but complacent.

This something that those who wish us all to eat vegetarian or vegan choose to ignore. To grow crops at scale you need a monoculture, that means eradicating all wildlife and nearly all insect life that lived in those areas before. Then maintaining that indefinitely, whether that's done chemically or 'organically' makes little difference.

But butterflies and bees are my favorite insects ...

As long as they aren't black people, right Steve?

Bugs are not people, duh, black or any other color.

Almost all global environmental scares turn out to be rubbish, or at least wild exaggerations.

I do think over-fishing can be a problem (having taken an active part in my teenage years). The solution will not lie in a lot of global hand-wringing, though.

I don't know anything about the bees: I am open to persuasion.

But clearly the main environmental problem is academics in keen pursuit of appointments, tenure, promotion, and research grants. Turning science into a mass production industry has its downsides.

This "remaining insects will evolve" stuff reminds me of "global warming can't harm the earth" talk.

Obviously life on Earth does bounce back from major extinction events.

That does not mean that major extinction events are fun to live through.

Anecdotal: there has been a collapse of the flying insect population in my region of northeastern Thailand in the last five years. Pollination of fruit trees is much reduced.

I don't see stick bugs nearly as much as I used to, and a praying mantis is noteworthy.

"Probably not"

What a relief! There's a less than 50% chance of insect extinction! I can relax now.

Adaptation rates for large groups ovf species depend on the length of reproductive cycle, which is commonly 1yr for insects, which is more than fast enuf to prevent extinction. IMO its lovely to.preserve species but the reality is most aren't especially unique. butterflies and bees range over large areas but its likely that many species are very similar but occupy restricted geographic areas. What's more, for all we know human -driven environmental fragmentation could have generated many species, which are now disappearing as human environments become more monotonous and merge together, eclipsing the earlier human-created diversity.

https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/black_and_pale_swallow_worts

Error bars go in both directions, you know.

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