Insects are marvellous, busy little creatures often overlooked as they're so tiny we might not always pay them much attention, but they play a crucial role in our planet. A recent global study has shown that more than forty percent of insect species are declining and a third are endangered (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/feb/10/plummeting-insect-numbers-threaten-collapse-of-nature).
Moths, butterflies, dragonflies, wasps, bees, ants and dung beetles are the most affected species. The rate of extinction of bees, ants and beetles is happening so quickly that they're disappearing eight times faster than reptiles, birds or mammals (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-47198576)).
Insects are crucial for the proper functioning of all ecosystems as they provide food for birds, bats, reptiles and small mammals; they pollinate around seventy-five percent of the crops in the world; replenish soils, and keep pest numbers down (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-47198576). If insects continue to decline at such an astonishing rate, we're likely to see a 'plague of pests' of houseflies and cockroaches - something I'm not so keen on! (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-47198576)
The decline is caused by intensive agriculture, pesticides, deforestation and urbanisation along with climate change, of course, particularly in tropical areas where it has a tremendous impact (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-47198576).
As this is such an important subject and because kids are intrigued by insects anyway, we chatted about their conservation and how we might be able to help them. Dung beetles eat dung which the children found very funny, and they enjoyed sketching bumblebees, butterflies and dragonflies with me whilst learning about bees pollinating flowers and why insects are of conservation concern. We also discussed ways in which we could encourage more insects into our gardens.
Pangolins are sweet, scaly mammals not so well known in everyday discourse. They are also the most trafficked animals in the world and are avid consumers of insects, and considering it was World Pangolin Day that week; we sketched some whilst learning about why they're critically endangered.
I asked the kids what pangolins might eat if there were no more insects left in the world, and the children said 'nothing'. 'Exactly,' I replied, then the kids shouted out, 'they would die'. And, so they would, that is if trafficking doesn't wipe them out first.
For the children to find out more about insects, Mad Hatter's has a brilliant bug hotel so the little ones can investigate and watch how insects behave for themselves.
My daughter and I also created one of the pictures here to mark World Pangolin Day on 16th February. I drew it, and she coloured it all in. The rolled-up pangolin sun is a posture they use in self-defence, but in fact, it makes it easier for them to be picked up and therefore, taken way. The picture is suggesting the idea that we don't want the sun to go down on pangolins.