Bugs are our friends
Why we need to conserve invertebrates: “If we and the rest of the back-boned animals were to disappear overnight, the rest of the world would get on pretty well. But if the invertebrates were to disappear, the world’s ecosystems would collapse.” – David Attenborough, naturalist
At least 65% of all species on the planet are invertebrates. There are more than 32,000 terrestrial and freshwater and 7,000 marine species in the UK alone, and many are critically endangered. Bugs are also important to human life and to the world as a whole.
• They are an important part of the food chain, providing essential food to most birds and mammals.
• They are integral to our ecosystem. For example, many wild flowers would be lost without insect pollination.
• Many species are yet to be discovered. Some might benefit humanity in areas such as biological pest control or medicine.
Just how threatened are invertebrates? Habitat fragmentation, intense agricultural practices, climate change and many other human activities are damaging invertebrate populations.
One of the problems facing invertebrate conservationists is our lack of knowledge on their exact status. Perhaps this is unsurprising given that there are 40,000 species and only a few hundred experts who are studying them. However what we do know presents a very worrying picture.
• Worldwide, an estimated 570,000 species could be extinct by 2100.
• The British Red Data Book for Insects, published in 1987, includes 1786 species whose continued existence is threatened - and that is just for the best known groups.
• Almost a third of all bees and wasps are under threat.
• Over 70% of butterflies are declining significantly.
• It is estimated that at least 15% of the total UK invertebrate fauna is under threat = 4,500 species in decline.
• Species such as the Short-haired bumblebee and the Essex emerald moth have become extinct in the last 15 years.
Most conservation organisations recognise the problem. Buglife specializes in publicising it and in encouraging people to do something about it.
What you can do
1. Do a survey in your garden. Look for
Scarlet malachite beetles
Find out how at Bugwatch: www.buglife.org.uk
2. Take part in a beewatch, spotting big bumblebees: www.bumblebeeconservationtrust.co.uk/surveys.htm
3. Join in national moth night: www.nationalmothnight.info
4. Move up from insects to birds, and take part in Garden Birdwatch, a year-round project that gathers important information on how different species of birds use gardens and how this use changes over time: www.bto.org/gbw
Also check out the Species of Conservation Concern list, which contains information on the designation and status of UK species.