I would like to thank Frank at Dutch Goes the Photo for his Tuesday word prompt, crawl.  It allows me to post about something near and dear to my heart.  Yes, I know.  Everything is near and dear to my heart, but that can’t be a bad thing surely?  You have probably all seen the news this week about a recent insect study review.  The review found that insect numbers have plummeted, experiencing a 2.5% loss per year.  Now one can argue about the rate of decline, whether it can be applied uniformly across the globe and to all insects, but one thing is clear, our insect population is in trouble.

The study attributed the decline in insect numbers mainly to intensive agriculture and associated pesticide use, but also acknowledged the problem is likely to be multi-faceted.  Scientists also suspect climate change and human impact (such as habitat loss) is contributing to the decline of insect populations.  More research needs to be done.  I imagine that there are many feedback loops that we can’t yet anticipate or measure and that the rate of insect decline will accelerate rapidly in coming years as the drivers of change overlap.  I am cognisant that there is a paucity of insect studies, but there is sufficient evidence now on adverse impacts on agricultural productivity from collapsing populations of beneficial pollinating insects, not to mention concerns about insecticide use for human health, for us to be worried.  I think it is fair that we question the existing data, but we should also be investing in addressing the information gaps.  We should be equally skeptical of claims made by those with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.   In her book, Silent Spring (1962), Rachel Carson wrote:

“When the public protests, confronted with some obvious evidence of damaging results of pesticide applications, it is fed little tranquilizing pills of half truth.”

Sound familiar?

There is a lot that we can do.  Money talks.  We can buy from growers that have adopted  sustainable agricultural practices (ie. no insecticide).  We can advocate for increased public research funding into human impact on insects.  We can protect natural habitats and incorporate them into agriculture farmland, and we can eliminate insecticide use in our own gardens.  I use no insecticide (not even organic pesticides).  It is tough; my yields aren’t huge.  But we get enough relative to the small number of plants we grow.  Zucchini anyone?

Anyway, enough lecturing; this post is meant to be about the photos.  I thank my family for photos they took of the insects of the alpine and sub-alpine areas of Australia.

I’m in love with the alpine metallic cockroach (Polyzosteria viridissima).

alpine cockroachalpine cockroach2

And the mountain katydid (Acripeza reticulate).  At ease, if you please.

Mountain Katydid 1

Now that is alarming (literally).

Mountain Katydid 3Mountain Katydid 2

Something has outgrown its skin.

exoskeleton

Could it be a Southern Pyrgomorph (Monistria concinna)?

spotted mountain grasshopper

No idea what this one is.  But it is so cute, don’t you think?

alpine insect

The crane fly (with vanilla lily in the background) is quite spectacular and human friendly.  It doesn’t suck blood, sting or bite.

mystery insect

Even flies pollinate.  This lovely native greenhood orchid doesn’t mind.

flyandgreenhood

Technically not an insect but an arachnid, this lovely enamel spider glints in the sun.

spider

Now if there are any Aussies who live in alpine regions reading this, can you please let me know whether the bogong moths have arrived this year?  I have seen none pass through Canberra on their 1000 km migration to the Australian Alps and I am a little worried that there will be too few this year for the mountain pygmy possums who rely on moth protein to fatten up for the winter hibernation.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Kind Regards
Tracy

See here for a media report on the review.

41 thoughts on “Not So Creepy Crawly

  1. Thank you for sharing this post! I read myself in a BBC article if I recall correctly about the decline of insects. It’s so very scary since nature seems to be losing its balance! Take care and have a great weekend. MZ

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  2. It is indeed very worrying news (are there any other?) regarding insect population, Tracy. Most people of course are focused on the wellbeing of bees which admittedly should be of the greatest concern for us humans. But like you said, flies are also pollinators as are a million of other creepy crawlies. Even spiders are useful – don´t tell them I said that because I really, really hate spiders! 😂
    And I would never have thought that I´d say this: but that metallic cockroach is beautiful!! 🙂

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    1. I know, Sarah. All the bad news makes my heart hurt. I love spiders, but I’ve got a bit of rat phobia, so your rat photo was rather challenging to me, but I could see how sweet they were. 🙂 I’ve turned into the fan of the cockroach now. Well, at least some of them anyway. Take care and have a good weekend.

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      1. As long as the rats stay outside in the park I don´t mind them. If I have even a mouse in my home, I turn into a silly 1950´s cartoon character of a woman an jump on the next stool or table! 😀 I actually kind of do that with spiders too. 😉

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  3. Glimmers of hope! It seems that bed bugs are developing a thicker skin that is more resistant to pesticides. Also a plan is underway to plant more milkweed to feed the caterpillars of the monarch butterfly, in their summer range. The monarchs fly 3,000 mile each year from their summer range to their winter range in Mexico. Google photos of the monarchs covering trees in their winter range.

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    1. Well that is welcome news about the bed bugs, Sid. You cheer me up. 🙂 I will check out those Monarchs too. The Monarch and the Bogong moths are similar in that they are the only two insects to use the magnetic fields to navigate. PS. I got the oxygen levels completely wrong in the carboniferous period according to my geologist husband. So I deleted the reference. Please feel free to tell me if I get it wrong.

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    1. There certainly is, Dries. I wasn’t involved in that trip though. Strictly for the lads as it would have been pretty rough going for me given my medical issues. The backstory was that there were ant colonies everywhere above the water line. It was a RAMSAR-listed wetlands. So every time the lads stopped for photos, they were swarmed. Very unpleasant. I admire the tenacity of the photographers and the ants. 🙂

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  4. Excellent photos of such small creatures Tracy and yes it is very worrying about their decline. Another reason I see is the building of unnecessarily huge houses taking all the section with no room for garden. A pet hate of mine. More gardens are needed

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    1. Thank you for visiting, Khürt. My sympathies to your wife. Having cockroach trauma must be quite difficult since there are so many of them. I’m not overly fond of them myself, but the one in the photo is a particularly beautiful specimen. It doesn’t like to live in houses. There are quite a few different types of cockroaches that prefer outside to inside, which is fine with me since that’s where I prefer them to be. 🙂

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  5. Yes, it is time to grow our food in ways that doesn’t harm the environment. We may not think insects are important, but they are a vital part of of the ecosystem that needs to be preserved. That being said, I have to admit I wouldn’t cry if mosquitoes became extinct…….

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  6. I love this article, Tracy, and the fact that you brought to light so many problem that we humans can work to correct. As a gardener, we’ve been seeing a huge decline of honey bees here in the U.S. among other pollinating insects, just as you described. I too only buy plants from growers that abstain from the use of pesticides. It’s so important to our world. Also, I love all of your photos. My family is very interested in all things nature, so I’m going to show them your pictures of insects and plants that we don’t see here in the U.S. – they’ll appreciate it. Great post!

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  7. On a warm night recently, we sat outside with the lights on and only a handful of insects arrived, so few that we were not bothered by them at all. This is very unusual and also worrying. I have noticed the decline of insects in my garden and I don’t use any poisonous sprays, even on the spiders that like to nest in the colourbond fences.

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    1. I wonder if the heat is an issue, Jane? Certainly the drought is likely to result in fewer insects. I hope there is someone researching this. My son has just finished his professional practice unit for unit at CSIRO with the plant people. The insect people are in the same area. He said that there were only about 10 people employed in the insect area now.

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