The endangered insects that we never see

Of the 80 species of dragonfly found in Switzerland, 26 are listed as endangered. Amici della Natura

How can the decline of insects in Switzerland be halted? The first national day of the insect, as well as the launch of a wide-ranging petition, are calling on politicians to act.

This content was published on November 15, 2018

If you dislike flies, or if you find yourself the frequent target of mosquitoes, you might see good news here. But the reality is rather alarming: in less than 30 years, three-quarters of winged insects in Germany have disappeared, according to a recent reportExternal link.

“Reports in Switzerland also show the decline of certain species, but we don't yet have a full overview of the situation,” says Sebastian Jaquiéry, committee member of the Swiss Friends of NatureExternal link federation. For flying insects, he reckons, some 40% of species in the country are thought to be at risk. Bees have been a particular focus, and are seeing a comeback in some areas:

The causes of the widespread disappearance of insect species is not clear right now. “But we know that intensive exploitation of the environment by humans, the use of pesticides in fields, the increasing mechanisation of gardening and agriculture, and light pollution all have a negative influence," says Jaquiéry.

For example, each night, a single streetlamp attracts hundreds of insects that end up dying from exhaustion due to constant circling around the light.

Jaquiéry says that the situation should be a cause for concern to everyone, even those who are not fans of the buzzing of insects in their lives. “Insects are an irreplaceable element of our ecology," he says. “They ensure pollination of numerous domestic and wild plants, they contribute to the quality of our soil, and they are at the root of the food chain."

Switzerland is home to 115 orthoptera species (grasshoppers, crickets, locusts, etc.); 40 are listed as endangered. Amici della Natura

A day for insects

To raise awareness among the Swiss population, the BirdLifeExternal link and Insect RespectExternal link associations have thus made November 15 the first national day dedicated to insectsExternal link

“Everyone can contribute to the protection of insects, for example by choosing bio-produced and seasonal produce, making nests or hives available, or keeping certain parts of your garden natural," says Jaquiéry. 

Mosquitoes, flies, and other species of insects that come into direct contact with humans are not the only ones in need of protection; there are also less visible types, even invisible by dint of their discreetness or (in some cases) by their increasing rarity.

In addition, a petitionExternal link launched by several groups including the Friends of Nature, the Swiss Farmers' Union, and the umbrella group of Swiss beekeepers, is calling for political action. Their text demands in particular that more investigation be done into the extent of insect disappearance in Switzerland and to implement plans of action (already approved by the government) for the future of biodiversity, bee health, and products such as insecticides. 

Having already collected over 24,000 signatures, the petition will be handed into government during the winter session of parliament. “We hope that parliament will turn the petition into a motion, so that the government will make funding available for research,” says Jaquiéry.

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