When you don't notice there aren't bugs on your windshield anymore
January 14, 2021 10:04 PM   Subscribe

Insect populations suffering death by 1,000 cuts, say scientists - "'Frightening' global decline is 'tearing apart tapestry of life', with climate crisis a critical concern."[1,2]

also btw...
posted by kliuless (30 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
We realized when we drove across Canada and were blinded by bugs that we hadn't experienced anything like it in years. I thought that...I don't know, aerodynamics had made it unlikely that bugs would splat against the windshield anymore. Our road trip through North America last year was terrifying.

Here in NZ we're not getting many bugs on the windshield, but the number we're getting in the house far exceeds anything I ever experienced in the US. It would not surprise me if this country is suffering the same problem.

Thanks for this! I was worried I was going to get a good sleep tonight, but this post ensures I'll be up til morning.
posted by rednikki at 10:23 PM on January 14, 2021 [4 favorites]

There's a eucalyptus grove in Pismo Beach that had been a major monarch butterfly gathering place every winter... until this winter; depending who you talk to the butterfly population has fallen 90% to 99% and it's scary. It's been a couple decades since the Pismo Clams went almost extinct and the comunity there has been stuggling to rebuild.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:40 PM on January 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

Yolo causeway in northern California used to be a guaranteed layer of bugs on your hood.

I seriously worry we'll have nothing left but algae & slime molds someday.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:55 PM on January 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

This is so tragic. Does anyone have any grieving rituals or other ways of honoring the life and creation that is going extinct in our midst? I’m looking for ways to be present with the sadness instead of just horrified and depressed.
posted by lagreen at 4:45 AM on January 15, 2021 [2 favorites]

Walking over the shoulder of the hill here you can see the great holes in the ground where they tore out the old-growth trees to feed the weir and the extractive industries downstream, thinking for some reason they'd return in a hundred years or so. Now it's clear that with proper stewardship it might be a thousand but actually it's not going to happen; I never saw those trees, I've only ever seen the scrub and their ghosts and my children can't understand why every time we walk over the ridge I cry for something I never even knew.
When I'm there looking over the valley with inexplicable tears running down my cheeks I know perhaps a tiny fraction of the loss the aboriginal people must feel, but soon enough I guess we'll all understand.
posted by memetoclast at 6:04 AM on January 15, 2021 [5 favorites]

I noticed this on my motorcycle during this past summer's rides. In the past, I would have to stop periodically at gas stations and clean my visor due to all the bugs, but this never happened in 2020. Not even a single mosquito bite, either, and I live in a place where they're usually plentiful.
posted by tommasz at 6:09 AM on January 15, 2021 [2 favorites]

now if we can only get ticks on the endangered species list...
posted by danjo at 6:16 AM on January 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

The last time I remember mass insect casualties on my vehicle was a few years ago, driving east of the Sierras up toward Bishop. There was so much blood I think it was mostly mosquitos, maybe due to livestock.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:04 AM on January 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

As a long term tropical dweller I won't miss mosquitoes.

But more seriously, if this collapse isn't as serious a warning as any, I don't know what the fuck is.
posted by Pouteria at 7:11 AM on January 15, 2021 [2 favorites]

now if we can only get ticks on the endangered species list...

I should be able to take that comment in the spirit of lightheartedness. But if we can conclude one thing at this point, ticks are not the problem. It's a different animal that appears to be the problem. Insert extinction joke here.
posted by elkevelvet at 7:34 AM on January 15, 2021 [2 favorites]

I really notice the lack of bugs when visiting my relatives in southern California - other than ants there is basically nothing. Not much wildlife either, like rabbits and squirrels, compared to where I live, even though the built environments are similar. I always guessed it was the concrete river banks but I honestly have no idea.

But back home, the bug population seems fine even though our built environment is similar, but climate is very different and much wetter. Anecdotally (of course), my brother in law does sound for movies, we were watching Footloose one time, and he said that 'soundman lore' from that movie is that they mixed the background insect noise too high in some of the scenes, so I sent him a recording from my backyard from last year.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:08 AM on January 15, 2021

I notice the scarcity of other terrestrial life everywhere I go and have for a long time. Other than the ceaseless noise we humans make, the world at large is way too quiet these day, and the trees empty. I'm so grateful we at least still have pigeons. After dogs, who have been with us for 15,000 years, pigeons are our oldest fellow travelers. They have walked among us for the last 10,000 years. I'm pretty sure if they go we go, or at least it wouldn't be a world I want to live in.
posted by chance at 8:38 AM on January 15, 2021 [3 favorites]

if this collapse isn't as serious a warning as any, I don't know what the fuck is.

Human deaths can speak more strongly to humans.
posted by doctornemo at 8:54 AM on January 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

We’ve been planting various native plants for some time in our yard. The difference in insect population this has brought about is notable. While I realize that large scale climate (and culture) change efforts are the Big Answer, we are making plans to go harder at home: increased planting of flowering natives beloved of bugs (and therefore of local birds), a harder line on non-natives that do not appear to offer more than their native counterparts, and ultimately some sort of pond, though that’s at least a few years off.
posted by cupcakeninja at 9:46 AM on January 15, 2021 [6 favorites]

if this collapse isn't as serious a warning as any, I don't know what the fuck is.
Newsroom S3E3 climate change interview, is one serious warning. I would like that level of clarity in real news.

In 2020, I enhanced my yard with a few more native plants bought from project swallowtail, to keep the local pollinators happy.
posted by ecco at 10:02 AM on January 15, 2021 [3 favorites]

Newsroom S3E3 climate change interview

The least realistic thing about this scene is the way that everybody listening to him is immobilized with shock and fear.
Scientists have been saying basically what he's saying for decades, and the vast majority of humanity just carries on, either mocking it, disbelieving it, or totally ignoring it.
However, I will give you a reason for optimism, even if that guy wouldn't: once we're gone, there's going to be an unbelievable renaissance of life on this planet. That's how it works.
I take the long view, side with the animals, and don't breed.
posted by Joan Rivers of Babylon at 10:18 AM on January 15, 2021

>> if this collapse isn't as serious a warning as any, I don't know what the fuck is.

> Human deaths can speak more strongly to humans.

Covid-19 has entered the chat.

In less glib terms, I wish your assertion was more universally true.
posted by Godspeed.You!Black.Emperor.Penguin at 10:18 AM on January 15, 2021 [3 favorites]

There was a smell in my neighborhood, it was so strong, and it settled in like a layer near the ground, while I was gardening. It smelled like an old fashioned beauty shop doing permanent waves, or permanents. I wondered if it weren't some cover smell for meth production, and I was going to try to identify the smell and get in touch with the police. But, no, it is the cover smell for pest controllers who come once per quarter and spray herbicide, pesticide, and fertilizer. Yup. They killed all my pollinators straight up, and left only the most hardy mites to attack my cucumbers. Then the city of Bakersfield is mystified why the desert foxes are all getting mainge and dying, and they can't connect destroying the web of insect predation, and pollination, with killing foxes. A lot of people do this, they are sold by yard management folks who don't want to pull weeds, or don't want spiders, or ants, and suddenly it is poison land. I have neighbors who want the ivy gone off the fence, because mice are at ground level. Well halfway up live the hummingbirds, and the rest of the birds in this town, live on bugs, I put out millet wants that just sat and were never eaten. Birds in my town eat bugs. So they are killing and poisoning the birds too when they do this, then your read articles like this one, but people still keep spraying their lawns. It really bugs me when people grow flowers to be pretty but they are poison flowers that kill the pollinators who are attracted, and sicken the birds. I have a ruby throated hummingbird who visits my geraniums in bloom, and there is a bigger variety hummer who visits the camelias out front.
posted by Oyéah at 6:40 PM on January 15, 2021 [2 favorites]

Yes, this is a big deal.
There's a bit movement in this country to do something, mainly by wilding the private gardens and the public spaces, like those green areas between lanes on big roads, or even just the little pieces of earth that surround trees in urban streets. I'm a member of the grassroots organization, and I got a little sign I could put up in my garden where it says "wild on purpose". If you knew my garden that would make you laugh, so I didn't put it up, but I support the cause, and wild private gardens can make a difference, specially if many people in your community are involved, so you can create corridors for the insects to move through. More importantly, probably, I'm part of a EU project to save the marsh fritillary. I haven't seen one yet, but my neighbor has, and we've all seen the flower they depend on returning. So our effort is working, slowly. I know just 20 km south of here, there is now a significant population.
I've written before about how amazing it is for me to experience the recovery of the land here, that was desert when I was a child, and barren in a different way when I was a young adult, when it was farmed with industrial methods. The trees my granddad planted in sand dunes when I was six or seven are now a 20-30 meter tall forest, and they host many
different species.
On the other hand, I'm right now in an argument with some other neighbors and the municipality because I'm letting a ditch flood on purpose. Monday I'm going to see if I can work out a compromise. I like the romance of the more organic shapes of the water, and insects and larger animals like frogs and birds and mammals like that the water moves slower and has softer edges. But those neighbors only think about the resale value of their plots (not farmland) and their houses are flashy and IMO vulgar. My piece of the ditch is an eyesore to people like that. They like straight ditches, perfect lawns and weed-free gravel. They come for the nature, but they don't like real nature.
Finally, this is a very inspiring video from Australia, which I think was posted here last year. Change is possible.
posted by mumimor at 7:55 AM on January 16, 2021 [5 favorites]

Thank you so much for sharing that inspiration mumimor. Would you be open to doing a zoom call to talk about your experience? I’d love to learn from you.
posted by lagreen at 10:31 AM on January 16, 2021

lagreen, that would be nice, but right now my internet is very flaky after someone cut my cable. I should be on fibernet in February. Could you remind me then?
posted by mumimor at 10:38 AM on January 16, 2021

I wanna notice and recognize that this problem (of biodiversity) is only marginally connected to CO2 emissions. Right? At least as far as I understand. There are some crossover factors, the two problems interact, but it's very much two separate problems interacting. And the solutions will be interacting but still separate.

Like, switching to electric cars doesn't restore grassland. But restored grassland stores carbon better than farmland.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 11:11 AM on January 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

There are some crossover factors, the two problems interact, but it's very much two separate problems interacting. And the solutions will be interacting but still separate.

Absolutely. And it is also very complicated.
One of the problems I can see right away is that if you want to restore forest for CO2 reasons, and I believe this could be done in many more places all over the world, you will need to curb the age-old ways of some indigenous pastoral communities, along with modern industrial agricultural practitioners. And while it is easy to hate at the food lots and monocultures, it is far more difficult to deal with age-old cultural heritage.
posted by mumimor at 11:52 AM on January 16, 2021

I wish your assertion was more universally true.

Me too.
posted by doctornemo at 1:31 PM on January 16, 2021

Monarch butterfly population moves closer to extinction
The Xerces Society, a nonprofit environmental organization that focuses on the conservation of invertebrates, recorded about 29,000 butterflies in its annual survey last winter. That was not much different than the tally the winter before, when an all-time low of 27,000 monarchs were counted.

But the count this year is dismal. At iconic monarch wintering sites in the city of Pacific Grove, volunteers didn’t see a single butterfly this winter. Other well-known locations, such as Pismo State Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove and Natural Bridges State Park, only hosted a few hundred butterflies, researchers said.

“These sites normally host thousands of butterflies, and their absence this year was heartbreaking for volunteers and visitors flocking to these locales hoping to catch a glimpse of the awe-inspiring clusters of monarch butterflies,” said Sarina Jepsen, director of endangered species at the Xerces Society.

Scientists say the butterflies are at critically low levels in western states because of destruction to their milkweed habitat along their migratory route as housing expands into their territory and use of pesticides and herbicides increases.

Researchers also have noted the effect of climate change. Along with farming, climate change is one of the main drivers of the monarch’s threatened extinction, disrupting an annual 3,000-mile (4,828-kilometer) migration synched to springtime and the blossoming of wildflowers. Massive wildfires throughout the U.S. West last year may have influenced their breeding and migration, researchers said.

A 2017 study by Washington State University researchers predicted that if the monarch population dropped below 30,000, the species would likely go extinct in the next few decades if nothing is done to save them.
posted by kliuless at 5:14 PM on January 19, 2021

Is this something banning lawns would fix? Live by the sward, die by the sward.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:58 PM on January 19, 2021

Bee Extinction Worries Grow as Species Numbers Drop - "Wild and managed bees are essential pollinators that ensure the reproduction of thousands of wild plant species and 85% of all cultivated crops. Mounting reports show that the decline in wild bee populations might follow, or even be more pronounced, than declines in insect populations. Many animal populations are decreasing drastically, scientists have recently warned."
posted by kliuless at 3:11 PM on January 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

Saving the Butterfly Forest - "Environmental destruction and violence threaten one of the world's most extraordinary insect migrations." (The Vanishing Flights of the Monarch Butterfly)
posted by kliuless at 10:21 PM on February 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

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