where are the insects I knew as a child

Asked October 15, 2018, 10:58 PM EDT

I grew up in Benton County, Oregon and had an intense interest in insects as a child. I still live in Benton County and keep an eye out for those insects I knew. I have noticed a definite decrease in the numbers of insects over the past years - no cicadas that buzzed regularly on warm summer days, no giant katidids with their single shhhht call, and few mantis. I could go on with a long list of the missing. What do you think is going on?

Benton County Oregon

2 Responses

You are very perceptive to notice the decline in insect abundance. This is a worldwide phenomenon, with potentially dire consequences for the Earth's ecosystems. It has been much in the news lately: https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/2018/10/15/hyperalarming-study-shows-massive-insect-loss/?utm...
Habitat preservation and restoration on a large scale is the only real answer. If enough people and communities make insect-friendly habitat a priority in their gardening and landscaping, it is possible this trend can be reversed. However, a piecemeal approach is only moderately helpful, as I can personally testify. I have an abundant, diverse, insect-friendly garden, but it is surrounded by lawn-dominated suburban lots and mowed fields, so the variety of insects I see in my garden is not very large. Butterflies, in particular, are very scarce - they need larval host plants to thrive, and one garden can't really supply enough.
If you want to see and hear the insects of your youth again, be an insect evangelist! Encourage everyone you know to plant a diverse, pesticide-free landscape, to leave unmowed natural areas and hedgerows, to plant native plants, to leave dead plants standing in the winter, and in general to allow more room in our lives and landscapes for the world's smallest, but in many ways most important, creatures.
Here is one resource with lots of good information - it is focused on bees, but good for all insects as well. https://www.oregonbeeproject.org/

PS - https://xerces.org/ is a non-profit working on insect conservation that you might want to get in touch with.

As a side note if you are interested in raising mason bees on your site to help boost pollinator biodiversity, Linn County Master Gardeners are offering a series of free classes on overwintering these bees: https://extension.oregonstate.edu/mg/benton/take-gardening-class