In responding to a wonderful post by Steve, over at Portraits of Wildflowers, I found myself summarizing a lot of material I’ve been reading and studying. If you don’t mind my getting on a soapbox for a minute, I’ve copied that response here. I was surprised the other day when chatting with friends about the loss of bees and butterflies. These ladies had been reading about it, and were concerned, but had no idea that their own actions were contributing to it. When I said something about the use of lawn chemicals, they were stunned. That really got me thinking….maybe this just isn’t being communicated, and maybe I’d better speak up. It can look disquieting to us to see nature doing odd things, but plants, insects and animals will all have to do some adjusting to the new realities we humans are bringing about and we will have to let go of our notions of what things are “supposed” to look like. I’ve been reading some interesting studies that show that in some areas plants are greening up and blooming earlier, while other species in the same ecosystem are actually blooming later. They are seeing the same pattern in birds, with some arriving earlier and others arriving later. Some species will no doubt wink out, which will be very sad, while other species will thrive and take over new territory. We can either see them as invaders, and fight them, or we can watch and allow nature to adjust in her own way. Even if we weren’t causing the widespread changes we are, by importing species and by warming the climate, there would continue to be flux. This is something many in the ecological field struggle to remember. That said, decades of field study shows that we have already lost 35% of our insects, worldwide. That is definitely somber news. The studies reveal that both insectivore and predatory insects are being lost, and so now the mechanisms that are causing it need to be discovered. Some are obvious, such as habitat loss. Anyone who is willing to create a wild corner in their yard will be helping create habitat. What is best is if neighbors band together to create contiguous bands of habitat running through neighborhoods. This can support a surprising number of species. Also, the use of chemicals needs to be curtailed. Statistics show that homeowners use considerably more chemicals than agriculture does, and these chemicals don’t simply go away. They filter down to the subsoil and the water table, forming chemical soups that are exceedingly toxic. We can all do something about this, by planting native plants in our yards, forgo the weed&feed, and encourage farmers to grow organically by buying organic produce.