Climate change linked to fewer bugs, study finds

Via Flickr

Simone Garza | April 25, 2022

A new study shows insects that are vital for supporting food chains and pollinating plants are declining in population.

On April 20, Nature journal reported factors like agriculture and global warming are affecting a wide variety of insects. Regions that were documented with climate change and redeveloped for agriculture, including the use of monoculture of pesticides, had less than 50 percent of insects. An average slightly over 25 percent of species were also found.

The study included collected data from 264 formerly published biodiversity studies. The studies had about 18,000 species, like grasshoppers, butterflies, beetles and bees. Insects such as Ladybugs and Praying Mantis, can limit plant pests

Other insects, like ants and caterpillars, can provide vitamins, minerals and protein.

David Wagner, a University of Connecticut entomologist who is not connected to the study, said insects tether everything together.

“If you remove the insects from the planet, basically life as we know it would grind to a halt. We would not have as much soil manufacture,” Wagner said. “There would be no bird life. There would be little food produced on land. We would lose many of our fruits and agricultural crops.”  Wagner has done previous research on decreasing insect populations, reporting that one percent to two percent of insects are decrying due to invasive species, herbicides, insecticides and mild pollution.

Pesticides can affect reproduction of pollinators on memory-loss and navigation. Pesticides can also contaminate the environment, like water and soil, becoming an unsafe host to birds, fish, and untargeted plants.

EnvIowa Podcast: Talking insect ecology with Dr. Andrew Forbes

Dr. Andrew Forbes, contributed photo.

Julia Poska | February 17, 2020

Today’s installment of the EnvIowa podcast features an interview recorded Feb. 7 with Dr. Andrew Forbes, an evolutionary ecologist at in University of Iowa biology department. Forbes chats about the ecological importance of parasitic insects and shares insights about other creepy crawlies like emerald ash borers and periodical cicadas.

Listen to learn more about his work on insect diversity and speciation.

Listen here!


On the Radio: Cicadas emerging in Iowa

The 17-year cicada is emerging from underground this summer in Iowa. Photo by Tim (Flickr)
The 17-year cicada is emerging from underground this summer in Iowa. Photo by Tim (Flickr)

This week’s On the Radio segment explores the life of the 17-year cicada, which is emerging again in Iowa after almost two decades underground. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Transcript: Cicadas

After spending the last 17 years burrowed underground, the noisy yet harmless cicada will grace Iowa with its presence this summer.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

During the warm summer months, the sun heats the soil, which coaxes these red-eyed insects to emerge. The cicadas pose little threat to plant life as they feed off sap and also do not bite or sting humans or other animals.

Cicadas – which are the oldest living insect in North America – generally live in native woodlands and can be found across Iowa, Illinois and Missouri.

Cicadas will emerge for about four or five weeks, during which time they will search for a mate. The male cicadas will “sing” a mating call from late morning to early afternoon.

With population densities as high as 1.5 million cicadas per acre, the mating call can reach incredibly high noise levels. After finding a mate and laying as many as 600 eggs, the cicadas will begin to die off and won’t be seen again for another 17 years.

For more information about the cicadas visit

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jerry Schnoor.

Mild winter could mean more pests this spring in Iowa

Photo by Frank. Vessen, Flickr

The warm winter could mean an increase in pests this spring in Iowa. Some pests that normally freeze during the winter did not, and therefore bugs are appearing earlier than usual.

Some farmers are worried about the increase in pests. Consequently, some are planning to spray their crops with pesticide earlier this year than they otherwise would.

On the other hand, some entomologist argue that there will be little difference in the number of pests this spring because some insects need snow cover to survive the winter – many of these insects likely did not survive the mild winter.

Read more about this spring’s pest projections from the Des Moines Register here.