February 12, 2019
Insects are wonderfully, busy little creatures often overlooked as they’re so tiny we might not always pay them much attention, but they play a really important role in our planet. A recent global study has shown that more than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered. Moths, butterflies, dragonflies, wasps, bees, ants and dung beetles are the most affected species, and the rate of extinction of bees, ants and beetles is happening so quickly that they’re disappearing eight times faster than reptiles, birds or mammals.
Insects are crucial for the proper functioning of all ecosystems as they provide food for birds, bats, reptiles and small mammals; they pollinate around 75% of the crops in the world; replenish soils, and keep pest numbers down. If insects continue to decline at such an astonishing rate, we’re likely to see a ‘plague of pests’ of houseflies and cockroaches – something I’m not so keen on!
The decline is caused by intensive agriculture, pesticides, deforestation and urbanisation along with climate change, of course, particularly in tropical areas where it’s having a very big impact. As this is such an important subject and kids love insects anyway, we chatted about their conservation and how we might be able to help them. Dung beetles eat dung – which the children found to be very funny – and they enjoyed sketching bumble bees, butterflies and dragon flies with me whilst learning about bees pollinating flowers and why these insects are of conservation concern. We also discussed ways of encouraging more insects into our gardens.
Pangolins, those sweet, scaly mammals which are not so well heard of, are the most trafficked animals in the world and are avid consumers of insects, and considering it was World Pangolin Day the following Saturday after this workshop, we sketched some of them as well whilst learning about why they’re endangered. I questioned what pangolins might eat if there were no more insects left, and the children said ‘nothing’. ‘Exactly,’ I replied, then the kids shouted out, ‘they would die’. And so, they would, that is if trafficking doesn’t wipe them out first. Thankfully Mad Hatters has a bug hotel so the little ones can keep their eyes on insect shenanigans and see how they behave for themselves.
My daughter and I also created one of the pictures here to mark World Pangolin Day for ourselves yesterday on 16th February. I drew it, and she coloured it all in. The rolled up pangolin sun is a posture they use in self-defence, but in fact it actually makes them easier to pick up and steal. Don’t let the sun go down on pangolins either, it’s gesturing.