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Dramatic insect decline: The numbers in Germany are a cause for alarm

Over the last 27 years, insect decline has reduced the biomass of bees, ants and other insects in Germany by 76 percent.

Whether it’s wasps constantly buzzing around our food, armadas of tiny black flies on our windscreen or bloodthirsty mosquitoes disturbing our sleep each night, the air seems to be full of flying, stinging creatures — especially in summer. Now, however, a new study is painting a different picture. Over the last few decades, the number of insects has fallen by a dramatic 76 percent. According to researchers, an insect decline of this size could also have drastic consequences for humans.

For more than 27 years, researchers from universities in Germany, the Netherlands and the UK have been examining the insect population in 63 wildlife conservation areas across Germany. From 1989 to 2016, the researchers set up malaise traps — tent-like insect traps — and carried out regular analyses on the insects that entered their nets. When putting up the traps, they made a conscious decision to divide the nets across locations with differing qualities, from heathland that is low in nutrients to grassland in which nutrients are abundant.

The cause of insect decline is yet to be discovered

Alongside environmental factors that could have had an effect on the insect population, such as vegetation, the scientists also considered data collected by nearby weather stations, such as temperature, precipitation and wind speed. In addition, the scientists also examined the plant diversity, lighting conditions, nitrogen concentration and humidity in the areas around the measuring stations. However, none of the factors that they recorded could explain the massive decline in the insect population. On the contrary, factors such as the slight rise in temperature should even have led to an increase in the number of insects.

According to the researchers, it is therefore likely that the decline can be attributed to a combination of numerous causes, such as agricultural intensification through monocultures or the use of pesticides. As there is still a lack of evidence for this, the authors are desperately urging others to investigate the cause of insect decline and the impact that this will have on our entire ecosystem in more detail.

The results of the most recent study and the impending consequences of widespread insect decline come as no surprise to Intel. Alongside other initiatives, the company conducted a research project two years ago to support investigations into the massive decline in bee populations. The findings of this research project helped us to understand the causes of this environmental Armageddon and work towards counteracting it.

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