Have you ever observed or given thought that maybe, just maybe, there are fewer insects about than you remember?
Wasps can be abundant seasonally, but what about other insects?
Hmmm… Butterflies? Moths? What about the bug splats on your car after a drive?
These shifts in populations are difficult to determine without any actual scientific evidence. They are just observations, perhaps vague memories of how things used to be. Changes happen incrementally and are difficult to detect over long periods. We adjust to what we are used to experiencing. After all, insects are often small and insignificant in the scale of the world. Right?
Studies overseas have revealed evidence of some long term declines in insect populations. Yet little work has been conducted here in New Zealand.
Insect abundance (with several exceptions, such as wasps) and diversity are signs of good environmental health. They are also crucial to our economy and wider biodiversity.
The link above to a RNZ interview discusses the "bug splat" indicator and issues around insect diversity and declines in insect abundance.
"New Zealand has several kinds of native wasps which have evolved here and have never become a nuisance.
But five social species of wasps have been accidentally introduced since the 1940s and are classed as pests (German and common wasps, and three species of paper wasp). How to identify wasps.
Introduced wasps are a significant pest which harm our native birds and insects, and are a threat to human health and recreation."
Or view via this link:
Asian paper wasps (Polistes chinensis antennalis): which are distinguishable from Vespula by have a different pattern of colouration on the abdomen. Paper wasps do not hold their legs close to their body, so when they fly they have "long dangly legs". Paper wasp nests are found above the ground and are not enclosed, so you can see into the cells (unlike Vespula nests where the layers of cells are enclosed in an envelope).
© This image by Landcare Research is published under the CC-BY 4.0 international licence unless otherwise specified.
One hot summer in Itching Down,
Four million wasps flew into town.
They drove the picnickers away,
They chased the farmers from their hay,
They stung Lord Swell on his fat bald pate,
They dived and hummed and buzzed and ate,
And the noisy, nasty nuisance grew
Till the villagers cried "What can we do?"
So they called a meeting in the village hall,
And Mayor Muddlenut asked them all,
"What can we do?" And they said, "Good question!"
But nobody had a good suggestion.