Insects | Earth Day Network

What You Need to Know About Insects and How You Can Help to Protect Them

Facts About Insects 

  • Insects make up approximately 80% of all the world’s known species. More than 900,000 insect species have been recorded worldwide,[1]and scientists estimate that there are two million insect species yet to be named. To put the relationship between insects and humans in perspective, for every human, 200 million insects exist.[2] Talk about a bug’s world!
  • Tragically, over the past four decades, scientists have observed a 45% decline in the overall insect population.[3] From Puerto Rico to Brazil to Germany studies show that insect populations, and the species that depend on them, are in steep decline. German scientists report that their insect populations have declined by 75% in less than 30 years.[4]
  • Insects have been part of our earth forever. Dragonflies have been on earth more than 300 million years and grasshoppers existed before the dinosaurs.

Why We Need to Protect Insects

  • Insects pollinate most of our plants and flowers. Without them, we would not have a stable source of food.
  • Insects themselves are a source of food for thousands of other species and humans and without them our global ecosystems would collapse.
  • Insects aerate our soil and aid in the process of recycling nutrients for use by other animals including humans.[5]
  • Many insect species play a role in keeping harmful insects from destroying and degrading crops.[6]
  • In the United States alone, insects contribute at least $57 billion to the global economy[7]. Worldwide, these same services total approximately $1.75 trillion.[8]

Threats to Insects

  • Climate Change: Of all the species on Earth, insects are the most sensitive and susceptible to the consequences of climate change. Current projections indicate that by the end of the century, nearly half of all habitat for insects would be unsuitable as a result of global warming, creating an “ecological Armageddon.” [9]
  • Habitat Loss: Agricultural expansion, proliferation of pesticides, pollution from waste facilities, and commercial development are causing irreversible damage to the habitat of insects.[10]
  • Pesticide Use: Widespread and indiscriminate use of pesticides and herbicides kill living insects, their offspring, and their habitat. Some have been banned because they also cause cancer and other fatal illnesses in humans! [11]
  • Invasive species: The introduction of invasive species may lead to significant problems ranging from population declines to habitat destruction and eco-system collapse.[12]

What You Can Do to Help Protect Insects

  • Take Earth Day Network’s Pesticide Pledge to help reduce the amount of pesticides that are killing insects like pollinators.
  • Educate your family, friends, and elected officials: More than 40% of insect species are in decline and a third are endangered. It is important to raise awareness of the valuable role that insects play across ecosystems in order to reverse this trend.
  • Check out nature’s remedies: Many remedies exist in nature that do not require pesticides. For instance, both ladybugs and lacewing larvae consume unwanted insects and provide a net benefit to the local ecosystem in the process. Consider adding beneficial insects to your yard, garden, or farm this spring.
  • Start a habitat at home: In addition to beneficial insects, there are other steps you can take on your property. For those with an outdoor garden, creating a compost pile provides fertile habitats for insects. Growing plants that are native to your local ecosystem is also a great step to support and attract the local insect population.
  • Use and promote organic products:  Purchase organic food, clothing, and other products that are sustainable and avoid the use of pesticides and herbicides.