Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Where have all the bugs gone?

     I have noticed that spring is much more still than it used to be.  The flowers still eventually bud out and bloom, but there is less commotion and I miss it.  What happened?
     When I was growing up the air was literally buzzing from March through November.  Lightening bugs lit up the air all night with their small flashes of light, bees of all sizes and kinds covered flowering things, playing with (moving to other trees and generally enjoying having them walk all over you) caterpillars was an obsession easily satisfied because they were everywhere and catching grass hoppers to stare into their marble eyes and get them to hop a part of summer.
     It is mid April and I have not see a lightening bug yet.  Perhaps it is too early.  Last summer I really only saw a handful of them though.  I have see a handful of caterpillars but very few, and I have seen one grasshopper so far this year.  As for bees, only a few lonely carpenter bees have been around.  Gone is the hive that called the snag in my side yard home.
     Growing up, I remember that my mother judged her home to be clean if it had no bugs.  I can hear her in my mind saying, "Oh, their house was so dirty.  They had a ROACH!"  Was that really a sign of the home being dirty?  She has an exterminator who comes out every time she sees a bug of any kind.  Is her home any cleaner?
     She was not alone in her phobia of bugs.  I remember spray trucks rolling through the neighborhoods pouring out massive fogs of insecticide.  People saw this as a good and helpful thing.
I played tennis with a doubles partner who was terrified of bugs.  I remember once coming to a tennis tournament and meeting up with her mixed partner in the parking lot on the way to check in.  He wanted to know if I knew where she was.  Just as he was asking me, we heard a blood curdling scream.  We had our answer.  It was evening and they had just turned on the lights, which of course drew the bugs.
     I have a neighbor who years ago signed a contract with a 'landscaper'.  This company seems to think that chemicals will save the world.  They spray herbicide multiple times a year, fungicide throughout the summer and insecticide at will.  They have the 'perfect lawn' - nice and sterile and not a weed in sight.  Too bad it is really so ugly.  Yes, I said ugly!  Grass does not grow as a monoculture in  nature and a healthy landscape has plants with holes in their leaves and plenty of bugs.
     It seems as though people fail to realize this though.  Bugs are the ever constant villain.  Even in horror films or science fiction movies, the really terrifying element is usually some larger than life creature that closely resemble a bug.
     What most people fail to see is that that bee or grasshopper or millipede or wood roach or whatever bug you like has a purpose and a function in this world.  Some, like bees, pollinate flowers allowing them to reproduce.  Thus they are very important in allowing trees to produce fruit and plants to provide food.  Others, like the cricket, the millipede and the wood roach help break down organic matter so that it can be utilized to create a more fertile soil.  That additional organic matter in the soil acts to hold that soil in place and thus prevent erosion; it also acts to hold stormwater in the soil preventing it from running off.  They perform both the function of making plant growth better through the soil and removing debris that would otherwise simply continue to accumulate until there was no place left that was not covered.  Even bugs that people identify as having little or no purpose like mosquitos serve to feed other organisms.
     Many people claim to be patriotic and to venerate the military.  They are our 'first and most obvious means of national defense'.  What happens if we fail to have enough food to feed our nation?  What if we run out of water because the freshwater from storms has all run off or been fouled by chemicals and soil from erosion?  What if we lose our plant material because it cannot reproduce or the birds all die off because they need to eat bugs when it comes time to lay their eggs?  What if the fish disappear because they need mosquito larvae for their young?  These things may sound extreme, but if we kill off all of the insects, they could become the new reality.
     We need bugs, all bugs.  We as humans need to understand this and stop our deliberate genocide of insects.  If we fail to realize this and reverse our actions many kinds of bugs will be lost forever.  Without them we will also be lost.