How nature’s backbone is collapsing  

Love them or hate them, our world runs on insects. While many may be put off by these creepy crawlies, insects create the biological foundation for many of our aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. According to Dr. David Wagner, a Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Connecticut, “Insects are the food that make all the birds and make all the fish…They’re the fabric tethering together every freshwater and terrestrial ecosystem across the planet.” (Janicki et al., 2022). They cycle nutrients, pollinate plants, disperse seeds, maintain soil structure and fertility, control populations of other organisms, and shape ecosystem food webs. Insect populations not only help maintain biodiversity, but they also influence agriculture, human health, and natural resources. Insects pollinate over 75% of crops across the globe; this service provides an estimated value of up to $791 billion CAD a year (Janicki et al., 2022). 

Of the roughly 1.5 million documented animal species, nearly two-thirds are insects (with many left undiscovered). Canada is home to over 55,000 known species of native insects. Baseline knowledge of insect species diversity and distribution in Canada’s forests is critical for documenting changes that may occur in the future as a result of disturbances such as changing climate or invasive species. While no comprehensive inventory of New Brunswick’s bugs exists, the province claims home to many thousands of individual species, including over 3000 beetle species alone (Webster, 2016).   

Despite their importance, in the last 150 years, the world has lost somewhere between 5-10% of all insect species (equating to about 250,000 – 500,000 species now extinct in under two centuries) (Janicki et al., 2022). No single cause can be attributed to the catastrophic collapse of global insect populations, however, the largest drivers are habitat loss from agriculture, exposure to toxins from pesticides or herbicides, and climate change. As insects decline, it has huge implications on their predators, specifically birds, as their decline by 29% (2.9 billion birds) in the USA and Canada is thought to be correlated with insect loss (Janicki et al., 2022). 

The PWA supports pollinator insect species in several ways, by leading an annual No Mow May Campaign since 2021, as well as the construction of our rain gardens, where we plant native plant species that support pollinators and restores habitat connectivity. In 2022, the PWA created a No Mow May lawn sign which is available to anyone in our watershed community wishing to participate in the movement, raise awareness, and support the campaign! The PWA also has a new Native Seed Increase for Restoration and Awareness Project which aims to collect, store, and propagate native seeds while also raising awareness of these issues. 

If you want to help native insect species, there are several things that you can do! By planting native plants in home gardens, parks, and more, you can help increase habitat and food availability. You can also avoid the use of pesticides and herbicides, limit the use of exterior lighting, convert lawns to natural habitats, and help educate people on the importance of insects!  

Have any No Mow May pictures? Post your lawn photos, tag us, and use #25watershedmoments to enter our giveaway! 

Government of New Brunswick, C. (2022). Pest Identification and Surveys

https://www2.gnb.ca/content/gnb/en/departments/erd/forestry-conservation/content/forest-health/pest-id-surveys.html

Janicki, J., Dickie, G., Scarr, S., & Chowdhury, J. (2022). Insect populations are declining at 

an unprecedented rate. Reuters

https://graphics.reuters.com/GLOBAL-ENVIRONMENT/INSECT-

APOCALYPSE/egpbykdxjvq/ 

Webster, R. P. (2016). Checklist of the Coleoptera of New Brunswick, Canada. 573, 387– 512. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.573.8022 

Scudder, G. G. E. (2017). The Importance of Insects. In Insect Biodiversity (pp. 9–43). John 

Wiley & Sons, Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118945568.ch2