A Moment of Science

Insects And Climate Change

Just how vulnerable and sensitive are insects to climate change?

Still image of a bee flying

Photo: mickeymox (flickr)

Insects will be forced to adapt to global warming in order to survive.

It’s well known that big animals, like polar bears, are vulnerable to climate change. The Earth warms, polar ice melts, and the bears are out of luck. The same goes for tigers, sea lions, elephants. As the globe heats up and habitats change, all big creatures are potentially at risk.

Insect Survival

But what about small fry, like insects? Some, like cockroaches, may be able to survive just about anywhere. But most insects are just as vulnerable to climate change as their larger, more beloved animal relatives.

What’s more, insects are arguably more important than large mammals, ecologically speaking. While several thousand polar bears roam the arctic, untold billions of insects live in virtually every habitat on Earth. And they’re essential in every ecosystem. For example, many of the world’s crops and other plants rely on insects for pollination. In forests, insects help break down dead trees and prepare the soil for new growth. And there are the animals, like birds and bats, that feed on insects.

What Are The Affects?

So how exactly will global warming affect insects? We don’t really know. Some may go extinct. Others could migrate to cooler regions and wipe out native insect species there. And this could have all sorts of important implications for crops and entire ecosystems.

What we do know is that because insects can’t regulate their body temperature to the same degree as mammals, they’re particularly sensitive to climate change. It’s hard to predict what will happen to insects as the Earth warms. But it looks like we’re about to find out.

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