A return to relatively humane temperatures hopefully adjusts the attitudes of most gardeners so that we are anticipating a gardening season filled with beautiful flowers and delicious, nutritious vegetables and a-buzz and a-hum of countless butterflies, bees and other welcome insects.

Welcome insects? What am I thinking? I am thinking that I want our garden to host an uncountable variety of insects. I want to hear the robins, Turdus migratorius, singing their morning breakfast songs. I want the mother birds to bring the babies to the garden to learn to listen for worms and to catch insects. I want to be in the garden as the bumblebees crawl lazily from their nests in the mulch and warm themselves to begin a day’s work.

I want all these wonderful things to happen because it delights me. And because all the life forms in the garden soil, on the plants, in the air are important and I also have a part to play.

I get to be a soldier in the war to protect and save the insects. Yes, save the insects. Worldwide insects are disappearing at a terrifying rate. Scientists are calling this an insect apocalypse.

The Guardian reported on Feb. 10, “The world’s insects are hurtling down the path to extinction, threatening a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems,” according to the first global scientific review.

More than 40 percent of insect species are declining and a third are endangered, the analysis found. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5 percent a year, according to the best data available, suggesting they could vanish within a century.

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The planet is at the start of a sixth mass extinction in its history, with huge losses already reported in larger animals that are easier to study. But insects are by far the most varied and abundant animals, outweighing humanity by 17 times. They are “essential” for the proper functioning of all ecosystems, the researchers say, as food for other creatures, pollinators and recyclers of nutrients.”

The analysis, published in the journal Biological Conservation, says intensive agriculture is the main driver of the declines, particularly the heavy use of pesticides. Urbanization and climate change are also significant factors.”

That is the situation and it is dire. Creatures that eat insects for a living are going hungry and dying. We, seduced by the purported benefits of commercial agriculture and heavy chemical use, should not sit idly by — because if we do we, too are in peril. How is that for a happy spring thought?

We can accept as truth that the greater the variety of insects that appear in the garden will eat each other, the best insect control possible. We can believe that planting wide beds of diverse plants is better than row crops, which are heaven on earth for lazy predators. We can educate ourselves about insect life cycles so we know what is happening in the garden. We can provide shelter and water for the insects. It’s that simple. If this creeping extinction of insects worldwide continues, we are in peril.

I want to be an educated advocate for insects. I want the food chain to be intact in our garden, in everyone’s garden. I want to welcome the insects.

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Cathie Draine is a South Dakota Cooperative Extension Master Gardener and a member of the Garden Writers Association. She lives and gardens in Whispering Pines. Contact her at blackhillsgarden.com.

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