The UK’s flying insects have declined by 60% in 20 years. The decline in insects affects all the major groups, not just flying and in the next few decades, as many as 40% of the world’s species could become extinct, including bees, ants and butterflies. Clive Cobie asks the question, ‘”is change in the air?”
I’ve witnessed changes in the past two decades as I’ve watched the spring caterpillars, upon which the birds feed their chicks. I’ve spent many moments transfixed by the strength and determination of these tiny earth citizens. The filigreed leaves of the hornbeam trees, with chandeliers of silken strands, thousands of living pendulums gently swaying in the breeze, as the caterpillars pull themselves up, they wiggle and waggle up to the heights, to spin their cocoon and then drop out of sight into the leaf mould: metamorphosis magic.
When I was a child, we drove out for picnics and when we got home, I earned pocket money by cleaning the splattered insects from the car windscreen, bonnet and number plate. I used to try and work out what type of insect each one was, from bits of beetle shell, to fly wings or butterflies caught in the grill.
To too many people insects are something of a pest: they are only aware of them when they are causing problems, but there has been a huge, steady decrease over the last 30 years.
I miss the caterpillar dances.
Three springs ago, in 2020, a wonderful thing happened: the birds had more broods than they had done for many years and they choose not to eat from my feeders as there was plenty of ‘real’ food for them out there in the woods all of a sudden!
We have a song thrush who nests upon a shelf. She always lays five eggs, and sitting on her unborn, she sings quietly to herself, teaching through vibrations the beautiful songs thrushes are destined to sing in the dawn chorus that moves constantly around the world, welcoming the rising sun, with the endless joy it brings.
That year, she had three broods. The wren too above our door raised a brood and then one more. This tiny little bird that brings such joy loudly sings the quickest song by far. The five species of tits all had young; the blue tit and great tit had two broods, the marsh and coal tits and long tailed tits had one each.
In my yard there’s a blackbird that always nests in amongst my stuff. She had three broods, and to add to it all, the great spotted woodpecker bought her young for a visit.
With slowly shifting baselines, the idea of what’s normal changes, as with the warming climate, deforestation, plastic filled oceans, traffic on the roads, pollution in the atmosphere.
The cause of the insects’ decline was made abundantly clear that ‘clean-air-spring’ when life suddenly sprang back with all its strength and vigour. Their tiny systems could breathe clean air again.
If we each strive to do our bit to help in whatever way we can, together we can make a difference.
by Clive Cobie