A report warning that plummeting insect numbers threatens the collapse of nature is a stark reminder that we must all play our part in trying to slow the assault on the natural world.
The analysis, published in the journal Biological Conservation, suggested that the rate of insect extinction is so rapid that insect life could vanish within a century, with devastating knock-on effects to the food chains and ecosystems we depend upon.
The report focussed on the 73 leading studies carried out recently on insect declines from across the world. The analysis included Butterfly Conservation data showing that butterflies declined by 58% in England between 2000 and 2009.
These findings mirror wider Butterfly Conservation studies that have previously revealed three quarters of the UK’s butterfly species have declined in the last 40 years and two thirds of the UK’s common and widespread moths have also declined in the same period.
The report cites intensive agriculture, particularly the heavy use of pesticides, as a main driver of insect declines, alongside urbanisation and climate change.
The dramatic decline of insect species macros the globe is a major concern as insects are the basis of all ecosystems, which in turn provide us with food, clean air and clean water.
But despite these sobering statistics there is hope, we can all make a small but collectively significantly difference to help our beleaguered butterflies and moths and it is in our back gardens where the fightback can begin.
By following some of the tips below you can provide a place for butterflies and moths
Garden for wildlife: There are around 24 million gardens in the UK, together they represent a potentially vast refuge for butterflies, moths and other pollinating insects.
By gardening for butterflies and moths in your garden or outdoor space you can provide much-needed food and shelter for adult butterflies and moths as well as their caterpillars.
Planting some nectar sources such as Lavender, Perennial Wallflower and Oregano will provide adult butterflies and moths with a food source.
Don’t use pesticides or insecticides: Pesticides and herbicides can be harmful to butterflies and moths or the plants on which their caterpillars feed. Organic gardening is very beneficial for butterflies and moths and all other wildlife, but if you can't go completely organic just cutting down on the use of chemicals as much as possible will be helpful. This can also benefit your garden by increasing the 'good' insects that help to control pests.
Go peat free: Don't buy peat compost. Peat bogs are home to many special animals and plants, including the Large Heath butterfly, which is declining across Europe. There are now good alternatives to peat available from garden centres.
Get messy: learn to love Ivy, nettles and long grass. Ivy is an important food source and provides excellent shelter. Nettles provide butterflies such as the Peacock and Red Admiral with places to lay eggs and food for their caterpillars. If you’ve got the space, let grasses grow long and unkempt which will provide food and shelter for caterpillars.
These small acts can collectively make an important difference. As well as our conservation projects, Butterfly Conservation is lobbying and campaigning Government to take meaningful action to provide butterflies and moths with a future.
By Liam Creedon, Head of Media and Editor of Butterfly magazine
Follow Liam on Twitter @liamcreedon