One Environmental Calamity I’m Not Mourning

Whatever happened to bug splats on windshields? I was actually asking myself that question a couple of months ago. Now comes a Washington Post article suggesting that other people are asking the same question — and worrying about the implications.

I remember taking road trips in the family station wagon — this would have been 50 years ago — and marveling at the bug goo that smeared the windshield like a bad Jackson Pollack painting. After a couple hundred miles, the windshield looked like a flock of starlings had unloaded on the car. Every time my dad filled up with gasoline, he’d dip a squeegee-like scraper into a bucket of soap, which every gas station kept by the gas pumps, and swiped the windshield clean.

Nobody does that anymore. I can’t remember the last time I saw a bug splat on my car. I can’t remember the last time I felt moved to squeegee the windshield.

According to the Washington Post, the decline in flying insects appears to be worldwide. Between 1989 and 2016, according to a new report, the biomass of flying insects captured in German nature preserves, all protected areas, decreased by a seasonal average of 76 percent. Other estimates have put rates of global insect biomass loss at 50 percent.

I confess, while I do worry that something dire might be happening to the environment, I don’t miss the bug splats — or the bugs. I vividly remember a movie from my youth, “The Hellstrom Chronicle.” As I recall, the moral of the movie was that insects would inherit the planet after mankind finished pillaging it. (This was before anyone worried about global warming!) Well, it turns out, the insects apparently are not taking over, not yet, and I’m OK with that.

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8 responses to “One Environmental Calamity I’m Not Mourning

  1. Funny, the mosquitos seem to have found me this season!

  2. Yup. No shortage of no-see-ums around here, either.

  3. A new “Silent Spring.” I suspect a cause we don’t understand yet, along the lines of the honey bee decline. On the flip side I note that I still hear insect chirping in the trees here in late October. That seems pretty late to me.

  4. There is growing evidence of large-scale damage due to increased pesticide use. Numerous studies are tying the collapse in bee populations to increased neonicitinoid pesticide use. New GMO seeds are now combining 2,4-D and glyphosate resistance in order to deal with the reduced effectiveness of glyphosate-based pesticides. They are both endocrine disruptors and have substantial adverse effects on both human and animal populations.

    We don’t hear too much about this because it is difficult to get studies approved in the corporate-controlled environment of university research.

  5. Maybe we wait for a bit more evidence than one German bug count and Bacon’s windshield before declaring that a full bore crisis is upon us. Insects are a very important part of the food chain and if they really are disappearing there would be consequences. Hungry birds, for one.

    Then there is this 🙂

    • Ok, a search did turn up some other stories about other studies, including one in Science, but I still don’t accept the windshield evidence…scraped many a bug off mine after night drives. It would not be surprising to find that habitat reduction and pesticides are taking a heavy toll, especially in developed areas. Perhaps global warming is preventing a total collapse!

  6. We do have a history of underestimating the impacts of our activities including pesticides and herbicides – and insisting on waiting until the proof is incontrovertible and the damage irreversible..

    I don’t know much about the insect extinctions but based on past history – it’s probably not good news and we’ll probably wait until the damage is irreversible.. then look around for who to blame.. as long as we don’t have to claim responsibility.

  7. Posted on behalf of reader Dan Slone:

    You know I love much of what you write. None-the-less, I was extremely disappointed to see your “bug-splatter” piece. The loss of world insect mass heralds a massive systems failure. Just the surface of it is the dramatic decline of the birds that feed on insects and the flowers and crops pollinated by them. To play the issue for laughs is to miss the opportunity to point out that this is one of the issues that every homeowner is responsible for and can impact by stopping the indiscriminate war on insects in their yards and around their houses and every person who eats can impact by demanding organic foods. I know that you look for ways to get past the bad news radar that so many people have erected, but by trivializing this issue you make our bad behaviors easier. Better that you not talk about it at all. At minimum you could have continued the joke through its consequences – no bugs means no bird to crap on your cars and statues. No bugs means no flowering or fruiting plants to drip sap on your cars. No bugs means no lightning bugs that distract the kids from their electronic games preparing them for their artificial environment of the future. Oh what a wonderful world we have wrought.

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