Think about the last time you enjoyed a car ride. More specifically, when you arrived at your destination and got out of the car. Have you ever checked your windshield at that moment? Maybe it occurred to you that it was still as clean (or almost as clean) as before you left? Not that long ago, my mother noticed that there were almost no insects on the windshield after driving for a while. Not even after driving on the highway. I have thought about this a lot since she mentioned it. A couple of years ago the windshield would have been very dirty because of all the insects, but now I could hardly see them.
Maybe you are thinking: “Why should I care? Now I need to clean my car less often.” True, for you this may be good news, but for nature it certainly is not.
The importance of insects
Insects take care of many things that are of importance to us. Firstly, they clean up cadavers and rotting plants in nature. They also pollinate plants and many birds, mammals and reptiles feed on them. Because of this insects play a crucial part in maintaining our ecosystem and also our entire planet! People also use insects for other purposes. Certain insects contain chemicals that are used in medication. We also use them for colorants, silk, bees wax and we eat their honey. In certain countries they serve as a source of protein and even in the Netherlands the consumption of insects is on the rise.
Despite the fact that these animals are very important, several studies and scientists have proven that the insect populations decrease dramatically. This is the case in the Netherlands and in countries all over the planet. The amount of insect species are also drastically declining, more specifically by 2.5% per year. Butterflies, beetles and fleece-winged insects such as ants, bumblebees, wasps and bees are among the most vulnerable species.
There are several causes for this decrease. In agriculture many chemical insecticides are used to prevent insects from eating crops. This also affects insects outside of agriculture. Fortunately, the government is already looking for a solution for this problem. Besides insecticides, fragmentation of natural habitats is another major cause. Because people are building roads and houses everywhere, the insects have less and less space to live. Finally, the use of insecticides and the absence of plants in our own gardens is another reason.
There are several things you can do to make the world more insect-friendly, even in your own garden. Gardener Jan Graafland gives the following tips: “Nature is so complex, it is impossible to control it. Let nature do its own thing and stop fighting it. For example, if you do something to remove lice, you will also remove the food of ladybugs. If you kill the ants in your garden, those in your neighbor’s will also die, as well as all bees in the neighborhood. Insects are small and fragile. It is much better to let nature run its course and respect insects as part of a bigger whole.”
You can also try to influence the municipality where you live. If you see certain spots that can be potentially be naturalized so insects can live there, you can contact your local administration. Maybe after reading your letter or e-mail, they decide to create more green areas in your town. Some municipalities are already taking initiatives. In some neighborhoods it is possible to adopt a green belt or meadow together. Sometimes there is even a specific budget for this purpose.