BIODIVERSITY SHRINKING

Humans killing insect pollinators jeopardising food security

Massive use of pesticides is killing bees and other insects vital for pollination

In Summary
  • Billions of insects – including crucial pollinators – are threatened by pesticides and other human activities.
  • If pollination is reduced, harvests of many grains, fruits and vegetables are at risk and food security threatened
Insects vital to pollinate crops an ensure food security.
POLLINATION: Insects vital to pollinate crops an ensure food security.
Image: COURTESY

Intensive farming, mono-cropping, over-reliance on pesticides and concrete jungles are killing insects vital to human well-being.

The same farmers who threaten the existence of insects, such as bees, directly need them for production while the entire human race depends on insects for food security.

The Insect Atlas 2020 says about 1.4 billion insects are facing massive threats from human activity such as the use of pesticides and other chemicals. The report was released by Friends of the Earth and the Heinrich Böll Foundation.

Numbers are declining especially in agricultural areas.

“Bees must visit around 10 million plants to collect enough nectar to make half a kilogramme of honey and in the process, they carry pollen from one flower to another enabling the plants to produce seeds and fruits,” the report reads.

If pollination is reduced, harvests of many grains, fruits and vegetables such as watermelons, cucumbers, apples and pumpkins are at risk, it said.

Mpala Research Centre executive director, Dino Martins said insects play a critical role in the production of quantity and quality food.

“The same insects combat pests that people use expensive chemicals to eradicate. Unknowingly, they kill agriculturally useful insects that would have helped them in many ways such as aerating the soils, cleaning up water supplies and pollination,” he said.

He told a virtual media roundtable that insects are a s source of food for other animals and part of the nutrients' cycle.

The entomologist said Kenya was lucky because pollination is done by wild insects while others nations such as China employ labourers to hand pollinate their crops.

Another entomologist and a lecturer at Egerton University in Njoro, Faith Toroitich, said ecosystems and humanity largely depend on insects.

“She said agriculturally useful insects play a major role in ensuring food security in terms of pollination, eradication of pests and generally balancing the ecosystem.

 “It is true some insects damage crops and harvest, however, provision of food, silk, medicines, maintaining soil fertility, seed dispersal and decomposing dead plant and animal materials are just some of the reasons why we need insects,” she said.

She said toxic pesticides should be avoided.

 

(Edited by V. Graham)