Film by Marney Brosnan – Mahi Pai Media
“If we go, we’ll take you with us” – Insect numbers are in rapid decline in Aotearoa, as in the rest of the world. Species are winking out and the overall mass of insect numbers is dropping.
Why? It’s predominantly the result of the unrelenting encroachment of human activity into the wild spaces where insects make their living. The routine use of herbicides like glyphosphate in crop farming, and the removal of shelterbelts and hedges as farms get bigger and more commercialised has led to a steady loss of insect habitat.
More habitat is lost as new suburbs sprawl outwards from the city, bringing their lawn mowers, Home and Garden aspirations and council verges. One third of our food, and nearly all fruit and veges, relies on insect pollination. Honeybees in Aotearoa as elsewhere are struggling now with varroa mite, colony collapse disorder etc.
Honeybees are not the only or even the best pollinators – bumble bees, native bees, hoverflies, drone flies and others have been found, by local Lincoln researchers (check), to be effective in pollinating crops regardless of honeybee presence.
These wild species are in sharp decline as their wild living quarters get tidied away. We should also care because we’re part of the same skein of life as these mostly unseen creatures that live among us. Because we share DNA,(ref) because we share a planet.
Because humans will not survive once our companion species have gone. (Ref) And that’s not even mentioning the inherent beauty of these creatures and their lives… CCC plans to shift back to using glyphosphate to spray the verges and keep the place tidy.
We say: Don’t do it! Review your spray programme and massively reduce it. Save money and protect the health of CCC workers and the public by using far less spray. Let the verges get weedy. There’s absolutely no reason to spray round trees and shrubs – just mow round them. Have a policy that assumes weeds will be left unless there’s a compelling reason to remove them, and have a policy to remove by other means than herbicide unless a compelling reason to use it.
And when the Red Zone is CCC- managed, CCC has a huge opportunity to bring back insect habitat by getting rid of the forlorn dead-zones surrounding every constantly sprayed tree and shrub right now (check Red Zone status). It’s being done elsewhere – many UK councils now deliberately leave verges and public reserves weedy and unsprayed (refs). It means a shift in CCC Parks’ mind-set.
It means CCC educating the public that what you are leaving round those trees, or on that verge is not a messy bunch of weeds, it is a bijou set of apartments for very small fellow citizens. Seriously. Because that IS what they are. If we, along with other species on this planet, are to survive the current climate and ecological crisis, we must rapidly shift our thinking to understand the interweaving of their lives with ours.
Then we will protect them as we protect our own. Plus it should be cheaper. What’s not to like?