• Imagine a world without bees.
  • A study in the journal Biological Conservation recently made headlines for suggesting that 40% of all insect species are in decline and could become extinct in the coming decades.
  • The report singles out a few groups of insects that are particularly threatened — pollinators like bees, butterflies, moths and dung beetles, and other insects that help decompose detritus and faeces.
  • If we don’t stop this decline, entire ecosystems will collapse.
  • There are many reasons for this catastrophic fall, but it’s mostly human activities like deforestation, loss of habitats, converting land to farmland and biodiversity destruction.
  • With agriculture comes increased use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
  • The worldwide decline in honey and wild bee populations has been linked to neonicotinoids, which are found in more that a quarter of all pesticides.
  • Climate change driven by human interventions also plays a big role because extreme weather events such as droughts and floods are fatal to insects as well.
  • Ironically, as the planet warms up and before an insect apocalypse takes place, many species of mosquitoes, cockroaches, flies and farm pests will actually multiply, particularly in tropical countries like India.
  • Insects make up the majority of critters living on land.
  • They provide food for birds, pollinate two-thirds of all crops, replenish soil and keep pests in check.
  • Our planet is home to an amazing 7 million species of insects and arthropods, who play a crucial role in the food chain.
  • The food web suffers when insect numbers decrease.
  • This has serious consequences for the survival of humans.
  • The food we cultivate depends so much on pollinators like bees.
  • It means that with no bees, we would simply starve.
  • Unless we are able to change the ways we produce food (by not overusing fertilizers and pesticides), there will be no saving of many insect species from extinction.
  • It is now well known that industrial-scale intensive agriculture, practised in the West, and increasingly in India as well, is killing ecosystems.
  • The counterpoint is organic farming.
  • Studies have found that organic farms harbour far more insects than farms using chemicals. But the adoption of organic farming has been too slow.
  • It is difficult for us to learn our lessons quickly.
  • Although we know that preservation of forests is required for many insect species to thrive, the pressure on natural reserves is unremitting.
  • As much as a third of all protected areas worldwide, which cover 15% of all land, has become degraded due to building of roads and cities and the grazing of livestock.
  • As India urbanised at a fast clip, many people living in its cities and towns have lost touch with the countryside and nature.
  • As a result, we are often ignorant about the role natural ecosystems play in our lives.
  • This must change. We must realise that the food we buy off supermarket shelves does not appear out of thin air.
  • It must be grown, and if we don’t have insects to facilitate that, we are in deep trouble.