I just submitted a proposal on Monday for in-house funding for student research this summer and next year, specifically to assemble a Spider Squad to do a local survey of spider taxa and numbers. I cited the Sanchez-Bayo and Wyckhuys article as evidence that there are grounds for concern about declines in arthropod numbers, and argued that spiders are a good proxy for insect populations, because they’d also give us a perspective on those non-charismatic insects, not just butterflies and bumblebees, that form their food supply.
I just this morning got around to reading Ed Yong’s summary of the Insect Apocalypse, and I agree completely. The review suggests that it’s all bad news, that we should be concerned, and that we should be studying this more thoroughly, but that the panic over insect armageddon is grossly over-inflated. Nothing is going to make insects go extinct, short of a planet-sterilizing impact with a world-killing asteroid.
The Sanchez-Bayo and Wyckhuys review is fine, it’s real data, but it’s not necessarily representative. So what do we need to do? Fund more science!
She and others hope that this newfound attention will finally persuade funding agencies to support the kind of research that has been sorely lacking—systematic, long-term, widespread censuses of all the major insect groups. “Now more than ever, we should be trying to collect baseline data,” Ware says. “That would allow us to see patterns if there really are any, and make better predictions.” Zaspel would also love to see more support for natural-history museums: The specimens pinned within their drawers can provide irreplaceable information about historical populations, but digitizing that information is expensive and laborious.
“We should get serious about figuring out how bad the situation really is,” Trautwein says. “This should be a huge wake-up call, and we should get on the ball instead of quibbling.”
What a coincidence — that’s what I said in my proposal. We need to collect baseline data, which is what I aim to do in this first year. And then, of course (hint, hint) I should get funding to keep collecting data for years. We’ll be covered with spiders!