For well over a decade, researchers have been aware of the global honey bee crisis. It has been conclusively demonstrated that honey bee populations, and many other types of bees, have decreased significantly over the course of only a few years. So far, the decrease in bee populations is being blamed on colony collapse disorder. However, this troubling trend is being driven by numerous environmental factors that have yet to be fully understood by experts. As it turns out, bees are not the only insects that are being killed off en masse. Within the past year, German researchers have shown that numerous insect species are dying off at unprecedentedly fast rates. Several other studies from all over the world have confirmed that insect populations are decreasing on a global scale. Since this information was released by various media outlets several months ago, many people have become knowledgeable concerning the current insect population crisis. The dismal studies concerning global insect populations has not yet been followed up by any good news on this topic. Most people seem to think that all insect populations are being negatively affected by various environmental factors. However, this may not be the case, as researchers now have reason to believe that some important insect species may be able to adapt to dramatic environmental changes without suffering major population declines or extinctions.
The current decrease in insect populations is obviously of serious concern to entomologists, ecologists and agricultural officials since pollinating insects are essential to the production of 75 percent of the world’s crop yields. The intensification of agricultural operations has led to a decrease in pollinating insects, as these insects are being deprived of the natural food sources that they both feed on and pollinate. Data shows that population declines have not been as dramatic on populations of “generalist” pollinators as they have been on populations of “specialist” pollinators. “Generalist” pollinators can pollinate a variety of different plant species, even weeds, but “specialist” pollinators require sustenance from a comparatively narrow range of plant species. As agricultural intensification increases, specialist pollinators will continue to die off rapidly, but generalist pollinators can survive the highest degrees of agricultural intensification, as they can find plants for sustenance and pollination in a wide range of different habitats. Studies are already showing that specialist feeders, such as Shrill carder and brown banded carder bees, are dying off in accordance with agricultural intensification. However, populations of generalist feeders, like common bumblebees, are not decreasing nearly as rapidly as specialist feeders in response to agricultural intensification. This finding shows that no matter the degree of agricultural intensification, humans will always be blessed with pollinating insects.
Do you believe that insects can develop genetic mutations that will make them more resilient to certain environmental hazards?