Infographic shows which bugs will likely die off first in ‘insect apocalypse’

12 Feb 2019692 Views

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The world’s insect population could be entirely erased by the end of the century, according to new research, but which species are most threatened?

A combination of rapid urbanisation, the onset of climate change and the intensive use of pesticides in mass agriculture is contributing to one of the greatest mass extinctions of recent years, according to a report published to the journal Biological Conservation.

The two international researchers behind the study theorise that by the end of the century, all insects could be made extinct due to the factors above.

Already, more than 40pc of insect species are experiencing a notable decline, with a further third being categorised as endangered. The total mass of insects is currently declining at a rate of 2.5pc a year, which is unsustainable to support a global population.

Speaking with The Guardian, report co-author Francisco Sánchez-Bayo of the University of Sydney said: “If insect species losses cannot be halted, this will have catastrophic consequences for both the planet’s ecosystems and for the survival of mankind.

“In 10 years you will have a quarter less, in 50 years only half left and in 100 years you will have none.”

Role of intensive agriculture

The analysis was based on 73 previous studies – ranging in location from the UK to the US, and Brazil to South Africa – to show that this isn’t just a localised occurrence. Sánchez-Bayo and co-author Kris Wyckhuys of the China Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing traced the beginning of the decline to the dawn of the 20th century, noting that it subsequently gathered pace in the 1950s and 1960s.

While a number of factors have been attributed to the rapid decline, the researchers lay most of the blame on our methods of food production, saying that “intensive agriculture is the one that is killing the ecosystems”.

So, which insects are most in danger of disappearing first? Based on the findings of the report, Statista has drawn up this handy – and, frankly, worrying – infographic of insects and their percentage decline over the past decade.

Infographic showing rates of insect decline with caddisflies at the top.

Click to enlarge. Infographic: Statista

Colm Gorey is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com