The drumbeats of doom began in late 2017, after a German study showed that the total mass of local flying insects had fallen by 80 percent in three decades. The alarms intensified after The New York Times Magazine published a masterful feature on the decline of insect life late last year. And panic truly set in this month when the researchers Francisco Sánchez-Bayo and Kris Wyckhuys, having reviewed dozens of studies, claimed that “insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades.” The Guardian, in covering the duo’s review, wrote that “insects could vanish within a century”—a crisis that Sánchez-Bayo and Wyckhuys believe could lead to a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems.”
The sheer diversity of insects makes them, as a group, resilient—but also impossible to fully comprehend. There are more species of ladybugs than mammals, of ants than birds, of weevils than fish.
There are probably more species of parasitic wasps than of any other group of animal. In total, about 1 million insect species have been described, and untold millions await discovery. And having learned of a creature’s existence is very different from actually knowing it: Most of the identified species are still mysterious in their habits, their proclivities, and—crucially for this discussion—their numbers. Read More