Insects aren’t typically an animal you think of when you think of endangered species. Whether it be their small size or ability to arrive suddenly in swarms, we don’t concern ourselves with insect numbers. But as time goes on, many insects are finding their names on the endangered species list. There are many factors, but pesticides are the most significant cause of death for insects. To keep bugs from becoming a detrimental aspect of our food crops, we have developed poisons that eradicate them in drastic numbers.
What are Pesticides And How are They Used?
Pesticides can be made up of many different chemicals or organic compounds. As the name suggests, they serve the purpose of keeping pests away from us or plants that we rely on. These can be home gardens to extensive agricultural facilities. Pesticides are found everywhere.
The EPA states a pesticide is “Any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest.” That means that pesticides are not only used on plants but include bug sprays and rat poison, anything that deters what we consider pests.
Because pesticides are a mixture of many different chemicals, the EPA rigorously tests and regulates how pesticides are made and what they are made of. This, however, has not stopped us from finding it regularly in our food supply.
The cause of this could be the way pesticides are applied. Smaller agricultural businesses use humans and backpack sprayers to apply the chemicals. Large farms use airplanes to “crop dust” the field.
If there is even a little bit of wind, the insects are not the only creatures on the planet that are getting fumed by the poison.
If They Are That Dangerous, why do We Use Them?
Pesticides are used for many reasons, but the first and foremost is to protect our food source. Agriculture is vital to the infrastructure of our entire society. If we do not have enough food, we die.
To mitigate loss and produce the most significant yield possible from their crop, agriculture specialists need a way to protect it. Enter pesticides. It is not the prettiest form of defense, but for what it lacks in charisma, it makes up for in action.
Pesticides are not only sprayed on crops but they are also used to deter pests from eating the crop when it is being stored. There are many disease-carrying rodents and insects that are stopped in their tracks by pesticides.
As mentioned earlier, pesticides also include other daily pest deterrents such as bug spray, antimicrobials, and disinfectants. These types of pesticides help us stay free from bacteria and other microbes that may have diverse effects on humans.
The bottom line; pesticides keep food on our table and disease at bay.
What Types of Insects are Becoming Endangered?
There are many insects that have become part of the endangered species list because of pesticides, 538 in fact.
The insects that make up much of this list are pollinators. Pollinators such as bees and butterflies are insects that help plants spread their pollen and reproduce. As they get sugar or nectar from a flower, food crop, etc., they pick up little pollen spores and bring them to the next plant they stop at; it is one of the most glorious symbiotic relationships nature has seen.
But as more and more pesticides are used, more pollinators are not only picking up and spreading the pesticides with the pollen spores, but they are also dying while doing it. Without these insects, a vast number of plant life would quickly become extinct.
These pollen carriers are not the only insect species getting decimated by pesticides. Many beetles and animals who live in the soil are on the endangered species list. This is a frustrating thought as some beetles move through the ground aerating the soil and helping the plant life thrive.
The overarching thought process from people who are pro-pesticide is that to keep all the bad ones out, some of the good ones must go too. The insects that are most helpful to plant life are the ones we are killing by poisoning our own food sources. It seems kind of backward, doesn’t it?
What Can We Do to Help?
There are many things we can do in our day-to-day lives that seem small but can produce a massive change.
First, do not use pesticides at home; if you have an infestation, try alternatives that target a specific group of insects that are terrorizing your garden, not a one size fits all pesticide spray.
Second, support local organic farmers. Many local farmers are already trying to make ends meet, so by supporting them, you are helping both your community and the insect population.
Lastly, be more knowledgeable about insects. Not all insects are alive to bite and harass you.
The way things are now, Pesticides are on par to put many more insects on the endangered species list unless we can do our part to nullify some of the losses.