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Why have insect populations have been dying off? What's the impact?

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) - Insect populations across the world have been falling at a fast rate. 

Even though blood sucking mosquitos, bee stings, and biting fire ants often pester people, what would happen if insects became extinct?

Jason Cryan, an entomologist at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, said  "we would have very little in the way of agricultural production without the pollination services for insects. So, bee decline, wasp decline, fly decline — these are seriously alarming statistics for human food production."

Ten-year-old Sara Goldstein, visiting the museum from Huntersville, said she loves insects.

"I don't want to lose insects because sometimes they are really helpful. Like honeybees, they provide honey," she said. 

Cryan is familiar with a recent study on the worldwide decline of insect populations. He has a theory on the main reasons.

"The use of more land and more chemicals in food production, large scale agricultural production and certainly habitat loss," he explained.

Cryan also is convinced that our ever-changing climate is also a factor.

"The effects of global climate changes are certainly demonstrated as a main driver of insect decline." Cryan added that more research is needed because so much is still not understood.

One of the most noticeable insects that people might not be seeing as much of lately are butterflies. The Monarch butterfly is down 75 to 85 percent in population in the United States in the last 10 years.

"Seeing moths on your lights on a porch, seeing fireflies, and seeing butterflies in the daytime," he added. "Driving down the road and having to clean off your windshield from the insects".  

Sara Goldstein is too young to notice these changes, but insects have inspired her. 

"I just want to become a scientist,"  she said. She loves insects and spiders, specifically tarantulas because they are so furry.


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