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]

How to Help Protect Insects

  • Educate your family, friends, and elected officials: The global decline of insects worldwide is nothing to celebrate. We depend on insects and so do millions of other species. Use our resources and facts to convince the people in your lives to learn more about how these amazing, beautiful, scary, and (sometimes) ugly insects are saving our lives!
  • Avoid Pesticides: The risks associated with pesticides are now considered by many scientists to greatly outweighs the benefits: pesticides are rarely targeted to one species, instead killing many other insects and even other wildlife and plants species that encounter these chemicals, including those that are vital for pollination or biological control. Take our pledge to stop using pesticides today and spread the word.
  • Natural remedies: Many natural remedies exist to deal with pests in the ecosystem – none of which require pesticides.[13] For instance, both ladybugs and lacewing larvae consume unwanted insects and provide a net benefit to the local ecosystem in the process.
  • Use and promote organic products: From food to clothing to garden products that discourage but don’t kill bugs, organics avoid the use of pesticides and herbicides and are the way to go to help save insects.
  • Habitat Starts at Home: In addition to supporting the protection of public lands, there are steps we can take on our own 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.[14]
  • Learn how to go green, protect the environment and fight global warming with 46 easy to follow tips.
  • Take the pesticide pledge.