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Interesting articlle but not enough on the details of the criticisms of the studies, nor replies to the criticisms by the studies’ authors.
But I must say that, for at least ten years or perhaps longer, anyone who drives at dusk in northern Ohio and many places like it, get to their destinations with significantly cleaner windows than in the first 40 years of my life . This articles first observation on tge decline in lightning bugs is corroborated by my own observations now for many years. There is definitely something going on in the realm of flying insects anyway.
I am not against criticizing a scientific paper and its overhyping by the press – scientists should be doing that. But an article on a dispute among entomologists should make some small effort to convey the fact that entomology departments at major universities are often supported by agribusinesses and chemical companies, and that a large community of scientists may have a self-interest in limiting stories about the damage caused by, say, insecticide use and pollution runoffs. Instead, we are supposed to think that on the one side there is a scientific community dedicated entirely to truth, and on the other hand, a media community (which is not owned, itself, by corporations) that doesn’t understand and sensationalizes. Here’s a link to a listing of a few university entomology departments that seem awfully close to the agri-chemical industry: https://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/sites/default/files/Public%20Research%20Private%20Gain%20Report%20April%202012.pdf. I’m surprised that neither Martin Sorg, from the Kresfeld Entomological Group, which produced the data about the insect decline in Germany – and who cites studies of similar declines in the Netherlands – was quoted. Nor was there any mention made of what many of these German entomologists are saying: that the studies showing lesser declines often came late – were set up in the 00s – long after the intense use of pesticides and chemicals in these areas.
On the whole, until science is treated multidimensionally by journalists – with an awareness of both research and the enormous funding of research by corporate entities – we will not have good science reporting.
Are you suggesting that scientists are being paid to convey the lies of industry?
If so, you are insinuating that they are prostitutes and I demand that you give evidence of that claim.
Having a self-interest is a standard feature of any economics model of the way we function in capitalist society. According to your definition, we live in a world of prostitutes – save for the brave scientist! Congratulations on the irrationality. Now, maybe you will want to read studies showing that papers produced with funding by industries are more likely to support industry contentions than those not? Like, in my link? Like, you know, scientists do?
Or you can continue to watch your favorite cartoon, Superman Scientist: unparelleled heros who have no self interest and are saving humanity!
Also, I know its mean to reveal it to you after you’ve believed it for so long: but there is no Santa Claus.
Scientists are shills is your argument? You have lost the argument.
I am an amateur who has been trying to learn about the 20,000 or so species of bees for about four years. We have very little data on any of them because they are hard to find and study and there are not many people studying them
Most bee species spend most of the year as eggs, larvae, pupae, and pre adults, not in colonies like the much studied honey bees, but in nests of maybe 8 or 12 in the ground or in dead wood.
As an amateur, I have noticed that most metadata appears flawed for many reasons. In this case, my opinion is that it was important to get the media’s attention to the decline and not wait for studies we may never have.
If you look at US colleges and universities, most entomology courses are about the few species that are pests. Our ignorance will harm us.
Wish ticks would die.
Sorry but just the opposite is happening. The melting permafrost, milder winters, and lack of controlled burns means an increase in the tick population. Animals as large as moose and reindeer in North America and northern Asia/Europe are actually dying from being covered in ticks and subsequent blood loss. The raging forest fires around the world will actually help with the tick population but not so much with everything else.
I think the backlash is at least as damaging as the original hyperbole. The critics have made a straw man out of the original research and tied it too closely to the reporters’ breathless accounts. The researchers’ point wasn’t that all insects of every type, everywhere are inevitably doomed within years…of course they aren’t. By coming out now and implying that the authors of the German paper and other papers were deliberately exaggerating for dubious purposes, the critics (including the author of this article) are not only ruining any public understanding that may have come from the original research, but actually causing more damage by feeding the anti-science narrative. As the reporters exaggerated the original studies, they will exaggerate the critics of them, ignore their attempted nuance, and damage science all the more gravely.
For a great piece on insect declines, and the problematic nature of the data, which appeared before the late 2017 paper, see Gretchen Vogel’s May 2017 piece in Science: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/05/where-have-all-insects-gone
Enjoyed the article. I agree we need to avoid knee jerk and sensationalism. I also know anecdote is not data. But I do want to share that I remember 30 years ago helping to wash my father’s car and how the front of it would be covered in a thick mass of flies and other insects. Washing my own car now, after having made many of the same journeys, there are many fewer, more than 50% less. This is in the north of Scotland. I’m fairly sure its not the aerodynamics of the cars so although I take the flawed studies with a pinch of salt, they do ring true to my experience too.
I’ve been talking about this recently. In Australia, you couldn’t drive 50 k’s without dozens of bugs and moths splatting against the windscreen. Fast forward 30 years and I recently did a 7000 km round drive to the North of this enormous country and barely had a mark on my windscreen. Anecdotal, yes, but nonetheless very real.
Great reminder for journalists not to automatically run with catchy headlines. At The Conversation US, we recently published this commentary by a PhD student who raises some of the same points: https://theconversation.com/is-an-insect-apocalypse-happening-how-would-we-know-113170.
Great article. Lots of parallels to the recent UN nonsense about mass extinctions.
“I just don’t think it’s in people’s — in our long-term interests for the rational interaction of humanity with the planet — to behave in that way.”
Which way? Emphasizing consequences of obviously unnecessary destructive commercial activity, or performing obviously unnecessary destructive commercial activity?
“Rational interaction” isn’t where we are starting, we have no long term interest today.
If you’re curious about how the world works you should recognize that no one knows how the world works and acts accordingly.