Studies have detected a “deadly pesticide cocktail” of over 150 different chemicals in bee pollen, and most experts believe that agricultural pesticide use is one of the main causes of worldwide bee colony collapse.
Bees are not the only pollinators facing extinction because of agricultural activities, however. As reported by Science Daily, a recent study by a team of German scientists, published in the journal Insect Conservation and Diversity, found that the number of butterfly species has decreases by more than 50 percent in areas close to high-intensity agricultural zones, while individual butterfly numbers are only about a third of what they should be in these areas. (Related: Colony Collapse Disorder debunked -- pesticides cause bee deaths.)
Germany is home to around 33,500 species of insects, including 189 different butterfly species. Most of these butterflies are in trouble, however. Five species have already been wiped out entirely, 12 are facing imminent extinction, and 99 have been added to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species – the second most severe status, after Critically Endangered.
The team of scientists led by Jan Christian Habel of the Technical University of Munich (TUM), and Thomas Schmitt at the Senckenberg Nature Research Society, set out to try to determine how intense agricultural activity might be influencing these statistics.
For their study, the scientists recorded the numbers of butterfly species active in 21 meadow sites outside of Munich, Germany. While four of these sites are located in nature preserves, 17 are adjacent to agricultural areas.
A total of 24 butterfly species, with 864 individuals, were recorded across all sites. In the conservation areas, an average of 6.6 species were identified in each area, but an average of only 2.7 species – less than half – were found in each of the agricultural areas.
The study abstract concludes:
The study’s lead author, Professor Habel, believes that these results provide evidence of an obvious trend. “[I]n the vicinity of intensively cultivated fields that are regularly sprayed with pesticides, the diversity and numbers of butterflies are significantly lower than in meadows near less used or unused areas,” he noted.
This trend is likely being duplicated across Europe, which has experienced severe insect species losses in many different countries.
The researchers stress that the results of their study underline how negatively intensive farming impacts the diversity and abundance of butterfly species. They believe that there is an urgent need for the development of more “nature-friendly cultivation methods.”
Certainly, something has to be done urgently to save our bees and butterflies, as much for our own sake as for theirs. Learn more about the crisis facing our pollinators at Bees.news.
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