ENDANGERED INSECTS

by Editor on April 1, 2011

The Endangered Karner Blue Butterfly is a North American Species. Photo:USFWS

When We Think About Endangered Species, Bugs Don’t Often Come To Mind. But Many Insects Are Quickly Disappearing, Too.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) tells us that 60 insect species are listed as protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA). The list of endangered and threatened American insects includes 17 beetles, 19 butterflies, 2 damselflies, 1 dragonfly, 1 grasshopper species, 2 moths, and numerous flies of different types.

Globally, hundreds of insects face the threat of eventual extinction, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The international conservation organization lists 89 insects as Critically Endangered, 166 as Endangered, and 478 as Vulnerable. According to the IUCN, 60 species of insects are known to have already gone extinct.

But, when it comes to bugs, the number of species known to be in jeopardy is dwarfed by the number that may be in trouble, but which we have not yet even discovered. Although nearly one million species of insects—comprising nearly three-quarters of the world’s known animal species—have so far been described by science, biologists agree that there are millions of bugs yet to be found and catalogued. Estimates of undiscovered insects range from 30 million to a relatively conservative 5 to 8 million.

Most of the bugs yet unknown to science live in the world’s rain forests, which are being destroyed so quickly that vast tracts disappear before scientists get the chance to document even a portion of the species they contain. Conservationists assume that many species of insects have already gone extinct because of rainforest destruction—and, in most cases we will never learn that they ever existed.

The troubles of insects also present problems for the human race, because we depend on bugs for the pollination of our domestic crops and wild plants alike, as well as for the fundamental role they play in all of the earth’s ecosystems, serving as a food source for many other animals, including legions of birds, fish, bats, and other mammals.

Along with widespread habitat destruction, insects of all types also suffer from the effects of insecticides that used against species that view as destructive or otherwise undesirable.

For further information on endangered insects, click here.

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