Pollinating insects such as wild bees and hoverflies are in decline and in danger of disappearing from Britain, a new study warns.
Scientists analyzed the trend of 353 species of wild bees and hoverflies in England, Wales, and Scotland from 1980 to 2013. Over the past 33 years, the team has discovered that a third of the species have vanished from places there were previously found.
The study, which was published in the journal Nature Communications, fears that a significant number of the insects, which pollinate food crops and other plants, would be lost. If the decline continues, Britain might face serious consequences in the years to come.
The Pollinating Insects Are Disappearing
The exception, however, is the increase of key bee species that pollinate flower crops, including oilseed rape. This can be attributed to the increase in crops grown due to government subsidies that encouraged farmers to plant more flowers that they feed on.
The study showed that the geographic range of wild bee and hoverfly species decline by a quarter. The average number of species found in a square kilometer has decreased to 11.
The researchers used over 700,000 records from volunteers who reported the presence or absence of insect species in areas across Great Britain. Unfortunately, the data does not reveal the underlying reasons for the disappearance of the pollinating insects. However, the researchers have suspicions.
Factors Causing The Decline
The study revealed that the loss of pollinating insect populations was most noticeable in northern Britain. The team suggested that this might be because of climate change driving away species that prefer cooler climates. The increasing temperature might be reducing the areas where certain pollinating insects could exist.
Another possible major driver of the worrying trend is the loss of habitat and pesticide use.
Loss Of Pollinating Insects, Loss Of Nature
While the study saw some species thriving, the researchers reiterated the possible negative effects of the loss of other insects to the environment.
"While the increase in key crop pollinators is good news, they are still a relatively small group of species. Therefore, with species having declined overall, it would be risky to rely on this group to support the long-term food security for our country," stated Gary Powney from the Center of Ecology & Hydrology. "If anything happens to them in the future there will be fewer other species to 'step up' and fulfill the essential role of crop pollination."