Your Favorite Summertime Sound May Be Disappearing (Thanks, Global Warming)
Fun fact: The sound of chirping crickets is actually male crickets rubbing their back legs together in order to entice nearby females. A not-so-fun fact? This soundtrack of summer could be disappearing, thanks to human activity and climate change.
As zoologist Christopher Hassall recently wrote in the Conversation, we have a bit of an "insect Armageddon" on our hands. A recent survey by the European Commission found that 28 percent of grasshopper and cricket species in the European Union are now threatened. Another survey, out of Germany, concluded that there's been a 77 percent decline in flying insects in less than 20 years, since 1989. Researchers don't know exactly what's causing the mass exodus, but they suspect that habitat degradation, fertilizer and pesticide use, increased wildfire rates, and hotter temperatures all play a role.
While there's surprisingly little data on cricket populations, and insect populations in general (as ecologist Joe Nocera put it in Science magazine recently, "[Scientists] have a pretty good track record of ignoring most noncharismatic species"), these numbers out of Europe hint that we could have a problem on our hands.
In addition to being the de facto anthem of long, warm nights, crickets help us out in a lot of other ways. They fertilize soil, feed predators, and just generally keep the ecosystem running smoothly. And we now know they play an active role in pollinating plants, too. Their mysterious population decline is eerily reminiscent of the one that bees are currently facing, which could have detrimental effects on our food supply.
It's just another reminder that neglecting to take care of the creatures around us will only come back to haunt us one day.
To learn more about what you can do to help insect populations thrive, check this out.