A world without butterflies and bees?

Insects are found everywhere and are so familiar and taken for grated that their role in the world is hardly realised. But they are so important and basic to the working of food chains and ecosystems that their absence or even a shrinking of their numbers can disrupt the present order and life systems on earth. This prospect has been projected by a study published in the journal Biological Conservation, which is a compilation and analysis of 73 existing studies from around the world conducted over the last 40 years. The study has predicted that over 40% of the insect species could go extinct over the next few decades. Butterflies, bees and dung beetles will be the most hit. The collective mass of insects is falling by an estimated 2.5% every year. Their extinction rate is eight times faster than that of mammals and birds. Much of the data for the study has come from developed countries. The picture emerging from the whole world may be worse.

The researchers have said that the threat to insects is from four broad problems: habitat destruction, agricultural pollution caused mainly by pesticides and fertilisers, parasites and pathogens, and climate change. These are threats to other life forms also and even to human beings, but the insects seem to be most vulnerable. Most honey samples collected from many countries have shown the presence of pesticides. Whole populations of insects have already vanished from many parts of the world. There is still no certainty about how many species of insects exist. Many of them are in any case disappearing. They are losing in the struggle for survival, but it is not natural causes and unexpected calamities that are pushing them off the world. The tiny things have no hope of winning the battle against the most dominant creature on earth, driven by a sense of its ownership and everything it contains, and equipped with knowledge and technology.

The truth that all life is interdependent and the disappearance of other life forms will hurt human life is hardly realised. The extinction of insects and other living things will lead to the snapping of food links and other consequences, which will make human life also difficult. Even this is a wrongly formulated idea because it assumes that the value of other life forms lies in the support they give to human life. Every living thing is important in itself, irrespective of whether they are useful to humans or not. Even though this is not realised, at least the self-interest of human beings should prompt them to maintain the balance in nature provided by other living things.

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