In this ABC News Australia podcast with host Amanda Vanstone, Genetic Literacy Project Founder and Executive Director Jon Entine takes us through the history of the vanishing insects and ‘beepocalypse’ fearmongering and says that ‘dire predictions of an impending extinction rest on studies that suffer from flawed methodologies and are based on fragmentary and mostly regional data’.
He tells us about a 2020 study that found that ‘while there was broad variation between taxa and sites, there wasn’t an overall pattern of increasing or decreasing populations’.
The recent hyper-focus on insects traces back to a 2017 study conducted by an obscure German entomological society that claimed that flying insects in German nature reserves had decreased by 76 percent over just 26 years. The study, co-authored by twelve scientists, lit a fire in advocacy circles and became the sixth-most-discussed scientific paper of that year, and remains popular.
The tsunami of crisis articles served as a wake-up call. But to what? A number of studies suggest that insect populations are declining in some areas of the world (but not in others) or that certain kinds of insects (taxa) may in decline in those regions (even as others are increasing). But Armageddon? Such catastrophic framing and the policy implications that would inevitably flow from that conclusion are significant.
Perhaps the inflammatory rhetoric, which continues today, is justified. Or maybe not. Certainly, entomologists and insect ecologists all over the world need more support and funding to fully evaluate concerns. But many scientists believe what should be an evidence-driven evaluation has morphed into an ideological litmus test for the environmental media and advocacy-focused scientists.